November 04, 2014

All that stands between Kentucky and its sixth trip to the SEC championship game in seven years is a team that needs to close a 34-point gap.

The second-seeded Wildcats meet sixth-seeded Georgia on Saturday in Nashville just over a month after John Calipari's team trounced the Bulldogs in Lexington, and his team is looking even better offensively heading into this meeting.

Sixteenth-ranked Kentucky (24-8) reached the semifinals with Friday's 85-59 win over Alabama to improve to 14-3 in the SEC tournament since the start of the 2010. In that time, they've reached five finals and won three with one one-and-done showing in 2013.

Against the Crimson Tide, the Wildcats shot 54.5 percent and hit 13 of 22 from 3-point range. Over a three-game winning streak, they're at 53.3 percent and 54.0 from long range.

"Sometimes it happens, sometimes it don't, you know," said Alex Poythress, who finished with 20 points and went 4 of 5 from beyond the arc after entering with two 3s on the season. "Everybody was just great offensively. We played a complete game today."

Poythress has gone 13 of 15 over the last two games, but one of his teammates has had it together for a much longer stretch.

Jamal Murray continued to dominate, scoring 23 points and surpassing 20 for the 11th straight game while averaging 25.2 points and shooting 50.9 percent overall - 50.5 from 3-point range. The guard hasn't shot under 50 percent in his last five, and the freshman has committed three turnovers just once in those 11 games after posting a 0.68 assist-to-turnover ratio through his first 21.

"The people that have watched at the beginning of the year know how much his game has changed," Calipari said. "And what's happened is he went from degree of difficulty shots, avoid the contact, and just throw a ball at the rim, not getting to the foul line, not shooting enough catch and shoots. Assist-to-turnover ratio was under water. And we just kept demanding. This is what the best version of you looks like."

Kentucky has won the last five meetings, including an 82-48 home win on Feb. 9 in which it held Georgia to 22.0 percent shooting. Murray had 24 points and hit 6 of 10 from 3-point range, while Georgia's Yante Maten finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Bulldogs top scorer J.J. Frazier, however, was 0 of 8 with four points.

Georgia (19-12) had another off shooting night in the quarterfinals but emerged with a 65-64 win over South Carolina. The Bulldogs shot 38.9 percent but rallied from an 11-point deficit to win on a Frazier free throw with 2.1 seconds remaining.

Frazier scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half to help the Bulldogs reach the semifinals for the third straight season along with Kentucky. The guard has averaged 23.2 points in his last six games.

"J.J.'s extremely competitive, and a lot of guys have unbelievable ability," coach Mark Fox said. "But when the game's on the line or they're keeping score and the game's close, they don't get better. J.J. gets better because he has a great competitive nature."

It was Georgia's season-best fifth straight win, and a sixth would get it to the championship game for the first time since winning the tournament in 2008.

That'll take some improvement against the Top 25. The Bulldogs have lost 11 of their last 12 against ranked opponents, and their 1-3 mark this season comes with a scoring differential of minus-16.2 while shooting 34.9 percent.

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