Scout.com/Jeff Drummond

Kentucky Wildcats come from behind to hold off scare from Georgia in SEC semifinals

NASHVILLE -- When Kentucky last faced Georgia in early February, the Bulldogs managed only 48 points and limped out of Rupp Arena with a 34-point beating.

There were no signs of that team on Saturday in the SEC Tournament semifinals. The same Bulldogs held a 49-44 halftime lead over the second-seeded Wildcats and looked like a team primed for a major upset.

As it has done so many times in the history of the tournament, however, Kentucky would not be denied. Bolstered by an overwhelming crowd advantage, the Wildcats overcame a 10-point deficit and outscored the Bulldogs 39-18 over the final 13 minutes to claim a 93-80 victory at Bridgestone Arena. 

No. 16 Kentucky (25-8) improved to 40-2 all-time in the semifinals of the event and will face Texas A&M on Sunday in the championship game.

"Mark Fox had an unbelievable game plan of what they were going to do to beat us," UK coach John Calipari said of his UGA counterpart. "... The team you just watched -- the way they played -- now, they just won five games in a row. They won five straight games and had us beat most of the game. We had what we needed at the end to kind of win the game, but I just... you know, they're an NCAA (Tournament) team."

Georgia (19-13) must now wait until Selection Sunday to learn its NCAA fate. The Bulldogs likely needed the upset of UK to land a spot in the field of 68.

"It was a very competitive game," Fox said. "I was proud of my team for the effort that they gave. We just couldn't close it, so we leave here with a hard-fought defeat."

The Cats were led by their dynamic backcourt duo of Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis, who scored 26 and 25 points, respectively. UK also got double-figure scoring from Derek Willis (14), Isaiah Briscoe (12) and Alex Poythress (10) on a day when the Cats shot 50 percent (29 of 58) from the field.

Georgia was led by Yante Maten with 20 points. J.J. Frazier and Kenny Gaines followed with 19 and 16, respectively. The Bulldogs posted one of the best shooting efforts against UK this season at 49 percent (28 of 57).

In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from UK's come-from-behind victory...

KEY MOMENT:

Trailing 67-63 with 9:04 remaining, Kentucky got a 3-pointer from Ulis followed by an offensive rebound and putback by Isaiah Briscoe to claim its first lead (68-67) since the 5:33 mark of the first half. A 13-3 run also included another bucket by Briscoe and a dunk by Marcus Lee that sent the overwhelmingly blue-clad crowd of 19,108 at Bridgestone Arena into a frenzy.

GAME BALL:

Ulis went 4-for-7 from beyond the 3-point arc and was 7-of-8 at the free throw line. He also dished out five assists, recorded two steals and had just one turnover in 39 pressure-packed minutes of play.

BY THE NUMBERS:

5 - Turnovers by the Cats.

10 - Largest deficit of the season overcome by UK.

12 - Consecutive 20-plus scoring performances by UK's Murray.

20 - UK points off 12 UGA turnovers.

26 of 30 - Free-throw shooting for the Cats, including an 8-for-8 day by Willis.

33 - Consecutive games with at least one made 3-pointer for Murray, breaking Tony Delk's UK record.

665 - Points for Murray this season, breaking the previous UK freshman scoring record of 657 set by Brandon Knight in 2010-11.

QUOTABLE:

"As a coach, he demands the best out of you. And that's all he did. I appreciate him for pushing me and to being somebody that obviously I didn't want to be at the time in the first half. But in the second half, he got the best out of me, and I performed." -- UK freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe.

"Did you appreciate me at halftime?" UK coach John Calipari asked.

"Now that the game is over, yes. But at the moment, no," Briscoe replied with a grin.

UP NEXT:

Kentucky gets a rematch with SEC co-champion and top-seeded Texas A&M (26-7) on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in the championship game. The Aggies advanced with a 71-38 blowout of LSU in Saturday's first semifinal game. A&M defeated the Cats 79-77 in overtime on Feb. 21 in College Station, Texas, a game that ended with a controversial technical foul call against UK's Isaac Humphries, who spiked the ball in celebration after what appeared to be a game-clinching defensive stop with nine seconds remaining.


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