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Back against the wall, resilient Kentucky powers past Georgia

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Musburger's last call sees Kentucky victorious in OT (1:26)

Brett Musburger's legendary broadcast career comes to and end with Malik Monk scoring 37 points and Kentucky prevailing past Georgia 90-81 in overtime. (1:26)

During overtime of Kentucky's 90-81 home win over Georgia on Tuesday night -- play-by-play legend Brent Musburger's final game -- Bulldogs guard Jordan Harris glared at Isaiah Briscoe and scoffed.

Briscoe (23 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists), a native of Newark, New Jersey, turned toward Harris and yelled -- and we'll paraphrase -- "You won't do anything, man!"

But he said it the way Richard Pryor would say it. The way Al Pacino would say it, with a four-letter word and a stare for emphasis.

Kentucky had no time for Georgia's intimidation tactics.

Tuesday meant too much.

The Wildcats avoided the first three-game losing streak in John Calipari's tenure at Kentucky and a possible landslide into a dangerous first-round matchup in the NCAA tournament by competing with an urgency they'd lacked in recent weeks.

After Briscoe's confrontation with Harris, Malik Monk -- who scored 37 points and sent the game into overtime with a 20-foot jump shot from the corner at the end of regulation -- tried to slap Georgia's next attempt at the rim to Louisville. Then, Bam Adebayo dunked on a pick-and-roll with Briscoe, who filled in at point guard for De'Aaron Fox, absent Tuesday because of an illness.

Isaac Humphries threw his frame around the post for a shorthanded frontcourt and snatched seven rebounds. Wenyen Gabriel (7 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block) sparked a game-changing 24-10 run in the first half and provided more balance on defense (Kentucky made a rare switch to zone early in the matchup) when he entered the game.

Kentucky played like a team that understood the ramifications of a three-game losing streak, which would have been the program's first since 2009, with a Saturday road game at Florida ahead.

Just 5:49 into the game, however, Kentucky could see the grave on the Rupp Arena floor.

It's the same resting place of former hotshot programs once praised as titans before they faded and became forever known as pretenders.

The Wildcats had hurdles to get over Tuesday. They were without Fox, one of three Wildcats unavailable against the Bulldogs. Adebayo picked up two quick fouls early. And nearly six minutes into the contest, a Georgia squad desperate to add a convincing win to its résumé had amassed a 19-5 lead and stunned the home fans.

So Kentucky's doubters began to dig.

The Kentucky team that squandered a comfortable advantage at Mississippi State two weeks ago, lost at Tennessee last week and couldn't maintain its early 12-point lead in a loss to Kansas on Saturday in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge had invited the same peril against Georgia. And with an upcoming trip to Gainesville on Saturday to face Florida, perhaps Kentucky's most perplexing SEC opponent, it seemed a two-game problem could soon evolve into a four-game disaster for the Wildcats.

At that moment, on a field of adversity, Kentucky had to answer the most pertinent question the game will ask all contenders each night between now and April: Who are you?

We all knew Kentucky boasted one of the nation's most promising rosters. We all knew Kentucky had the potential to slay any opponent. We all knew Kentucky was dominant in a sustained rhythm.

After Tennessee and the flip-flop against Kansas, however, it was no longer clear if the Wildcats knew.

But when the young Wildcats saw the grave highlighted by the early 14-point deficit, they hit a switch they might not have realized they had before Tuesday's pivotal game.

Freshmen don't focus on the stakes. In November and December, they just play. If they excel, great. If they fail? Well, they're freshmen. What'd you expect? Without the pressure, you can always see that free spirit in young players in the early months of any season.

But freshmen also don't understand the stakes. And that's a challenge for all coaches as the joy of nonconference play transitions to the treacherous threat of true road games against league opponents and frenzied fans in home arenas treating every loss as a threat to their postseason aspirations.

The Wildcats seemed bored at Mississippi State a few weeks ago, confused at Tennessee last week and stuck against Kansas on Saturday -- perhaps naïve to the implications.

They demonstrated the same malaise in the first six minutes of Tuesday's game. And they did not have their starting point guard to lead them.

But then, the Wildcats made the decision to fight.

They can't win the SEC title and last multiple weekends in March without that attitude.

On Tuesday night, the Wildcats seemed to realize as much.

Finally.