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Georgia's Gaines, Parker have valuable extra recovery time
Georgia guard Kenny Gaines reacts after a foul call in the second half a March 3 game against Kentucky in Athens. Kentucky won 72-64. - photo by John Bazemore

ATLANTA — Georgia's reward for the No. 3 seed in the Southeastern Conference tournament is extra recovery time for injured guards Kenny Gaines and Juwan Parker.

With a double-bye in the tournament, Georgia is off until Friday night. Coach Mark Fox said Monday he's not sure the extra rest will be enough to have Gaines and Parker ready for the postseason.

Gaines, the Bulldogs' second-leading scorer, sprained his left foot in practice on Thursday. He did not play when Georgia closed its regular season with 64-61 a win at Auburn on Saturday.

Fox said extra rest for Gaines is crucial for his chances to play this week.

"It's extremely important," Fox said. "I don't know if it will be enough, to be honest with you. Kenny has a foot sprain and so any extra rest that we can get at this point is critical."

Gaines averages 11.7 points and is the team's top perimeter defender.

When asked to list the league's top defensive players on Monday, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings mentioned Gaines first.

"I think Kenny Gaines is one of the top perimeter defenders in the league," Stallings said on the SEC coaches' weekly teleconference. "His athleticism is incredible. His desire to get through screens seems to be terrific, so I love him as a defender. He has strength and athleticism."

With Gaines held out, Georgia needed strong games from guards Charles Mann and J.J. Frazier to edge Auburn.

Fox said he hopes Gaines will recover at least in time for the NCAA tournament.

"You never really know but I'm pretty confident Kenny is on the track to recover," he said.

Fox said Gaines "is not the lone ranger" of Georgia players recovering from injuries.

Parker missed 11 games with an Achilles injury before returning in a limited capacity for Georgia's last three games.

Parker played 15 minutes off the bench and scored only four points, making one of six shots, against Auburn.

Fox said Parker was "extremely sore" after playing against Auburn.

"To have extended minutes like he did at Auburn was really a stress on him," Fox said. "We'll just kind of take it day by day. We will not do much tomorrow. He was extremely sore yesterday. We'll just see how he progresses throughout the week in anticipation that hopefully we can get him back in some capacity for the tournament."

The win over Auburn gave Georgia (20-10, 11-7 SEC) back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since three straight from 1996-98.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi has Georgia as a No. 9 seed in his latest NCAA tournament bracket. Jerry Palm of CBS Sports projects Georgia as a No. 10 seed. Neither lists Georgia as a bubble team.

Georgia awaits the winner of Mississippi's second-round game on Thursday against either South Carolina or Missouri.

A win in the SEC tournament could end any remaining doubt about Georgia's NCAA credentials.

"Our team in thankful we have a couple byes to get us to Friday because we just need a little bit of rest and so we're excited about having a week where we can get our legs back underneath us and get healthy and try to get prepared for the tournament," Fox said.

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