AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Down 15 points in the second half, coach John Calipari told his Kentucky Wildcats they were going to find out who loves to fight and make winning plays.
The answer was no one.
No. 1 Kentucky never made a run bigger than four points and led for all of 30 seconds in losing 87-77 to UCLA on Thursday night, when the Wildcats shot a season-worst 38 percent from the field.
“They beat our brains in,” Calipari said.
Thomas Welsh led five players in double figures with 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Bruins (5-3), who beat a top-ranked team for the first time since 2003.
Isaiah Briscoe led Kentucky (7-1) with 20 points while Jamal Murray added 17 and Derek Willis had 11.
The Wildcats had five players in foul trouble, including Alex Poythress, who fouled out with four points with under 10 minutes left. They lost a regular-season game for the first time since March 8, 2014, at Florida.
“We’ve been behind before. We just had some guys who didn’t play very well, and there are about four of them,” Calipari said.
The Wildcats lost starting forward Marcus Lee, who sustained a head injury in the first half and didn’t return. He had scored in double figures in four games and had two double-doubles.
“Marcus is so valuable,” said guard Tyler Ulis, whose right elbow was still hurting from last Friday’s game. “I was looking for him during the game, asking, ‘Where’s he at?’ He was in the back of the locker room. He’s been getting double-doubles for us. He’s one of the top rebounders in the country. We needed him out here.”
Freshman Skal Labissiere was held to six points and one rebound with four fouls.
“‘Kid, you’ve got to fight. You’ve got to battle,’” Calipari told him. “One of the things I’ve told him is that things don’t always go right. I told him that before the game. The whole team. You’ve got to have fun playing. You can’t do that if the other team is punching you in the face, and you’re not swinging back. You’ll never play with joy.”
The result was a dramatic turnaround from last December, when the Wildcats dealt the Bruins a 39-point drubbing in Chicago. Kentucky opened that game with a 24-0 run and led 41-7 at halftime.
“This win is very, very special just because of what happened last year,” Bruins coach Steve Alford said. “Not only were they the number one team in the country, we had seven points in the (first) half last year.”
This time, the Bruins dominated from the start, going on a 9-0 run after Kentucky scored the game’s first basket. They ran off 10 straight points later in the half, when the Bruins shot 50 percent and led by 11.
UCLA opened the second half with a 17-10 spurt to build its largest lead of 15. Welsh and Parker, who both had two points in the first half, scored six points each.
The Wildcats couldn’t get their offense in gear, appearing to try to do too much in a desperate bid to reduce their double-digit deficit. They got within single digits just once — early in the second half. Willis’ three-point play got them to 67-57 before consecutive baskets by Hamilton and Welsh pushed UCLA’s lead to 71-57.
The Bruins led 37-29 at halftime after holding the Wildcats to their worst first-half shooting percentage (37.5) of the season. Kentucky missed 10 of its last 13 shots.
Kentucky: It was the Wildcats’ first visit to Pauley Pavilion. Kentucky played UCLA in LA in 1951 and ‘61 before Pauley was built. … The Wildcats are No. 2 behind UCLA with eight national titles. … They lost to UCLA for the first time since the 2006 Maui Invitational. … They still lead the all-time series 7-5.
UCLA: Hall of Famers Jerry West and Oscar Robertson sat together… Shaquille O’Neal was on hand. … The arena’s seats were covered with gold T-shirts proclaiming UCLA’s record 11 national championships, the last of which they won 20 years ago. … As part of the home-and-home series, the Bruins will play for the first time at Rupp Arena next December. … Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of the first official game at Pauley, with the Bruins beating Ohio State 92-66. Mike Warren, who played in that game, served as honorary captain Thursday. … Other Bruins greats on hand were Jamaal Wilkes, Baron Davis, Toby Bailey and Luc Mbah a Moute, and on the women’s side Ann Meyers-Drysdale and Denise Curry.
Kentucky hosts Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday.
UCLA hosts Long Beach State on Sunday.