Isaiah Briscoe’s putback with 8:16 left put the Wildcats up 68-67 and Murray followed with two free throws. After Houston Kessler’s jumper got Georgia within one, Ulis scored five points while Murray made a layup during the critical run that pushed second-seeded Kentucky ahead to stay and into Sunday’s championship against top-seeded Texas A&M.
Briscoe (12 points) was also important down the stretch with a jumper and feed to Marcus Lee for a dunk as Kentucky (25-8) had to work hard to make its third straight SEC final.
Yante Maten had 20 points, J.J. Frazier 19 and Kenny Gaines 16 for sixth-seeded Georgia (19-13), which led most of the game before faltering down the stretch.
Derek Willis came off the bench to score 14 points and grab seven rebounds. Alex Poythress added 10 points for Kentucky, which used 56 percent shooting in the second half to finish 29 of 58 for the game.
Though Georgia’s NCAA prospects remained to be determined, the Bulldogs succeeded in giving Kentucky a game for more than 30 minutes. But the physical strain of playing a third game in as many days and second in less than 24 hours appeared to catch up with the Bulldogs.
Georgia controlled the tempo and the momentum, answering every Kentucky challenge with a basket or rebound that had a blue-clad crowd at Bridgestone Arena anxious.
But the Wildcats didn’t wilt and started coming up with the same plays and baskets to rally from an eight-point deficit, steadily building the lead once they took control.
Nothing came easy.
Georgia’s 61 percent shooting, including 6-of-12 from long range, helped build its 49-44 lead at the break. It set a quick pace that had the Wildcats reacting for most of the half. Murray and Ulis combined for 31 points to keep Kentucky within reach, but the Bulldogs answered most every challenge with their top trio of Maten, Gaines and Frazier combining to score 32.
The Bulldogs couldn’t sustain it in the second half, shooting just 35 percent to finish 49 percent from the field. Kentucky also outrebounded the Bulldogs 31-29 and outscored them 34-24 in the paint.
Georgia: Frazier left the game briefly in the second half with a left leg injury but returned to finish.
Kentucky: Ulis finished with five assists. … Poythress has scored in double digits in five of six games since returning from a knee injury.
Georgia: Awaits postseason announcement.
Kentucky: Faces Texas A&M in SEC championship on Sunday.