Omar Payne Apologizes for Elbow That Injured Tennessee's John Fulkerson

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2021

Tennessee's John Fulkerson (10) is helped up after being fouled by Florida's Omar Payne in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Friday, March 12, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Florida forward Omar Payne apologized Saturday for throwing an elbow that injured Tennessee forward John Fulkerson during Friday's SEC tournament quarterfinal game.

Grant Ramey of GoVols247.com tweeted Payne's statement on the matter:

@GrantRamey @GrantRamey

Statement from Omar Payne https://t.co/968Dm6JnYc

Fulkerson also tweeted about his acceptance of Payne's apology:

John Fulkerson @fulkerson_john

I know a lot of people are upset with what happened during yesterday’s game. Omar reached out to me this morning and was very remorseful. Everyone makes mistakes. Let’s all show grace and focus on today’s game. Go Vols!

The University of Tennessee announced Saturday that Fulkerson will miss the remainder of the SEC tournament because of facial injuries he suffered as a result of Payne's elbow.

Following the Volunteers' 78-66 win over Florida, they are facing the top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday in the semifinals of the SEC tournament.

Per ESPN's Jeff Borzello, Tennessee forward Yves Pons was among those who took issue with Payne's actions on the court Friday, saying: "That was a dirty play. That is nothing to do on a basketball court. Of course, we took it personally. We love John. We play for him. We had his back."

Payne was ejected from the game after elbowing Fulkerson, but he will likely get a chance to atone for that play, provided the 14-9 Gators are selected into the NCAA tournament.

At 18-7, Tennessee it is a lock for the NCAA tournament regardless of how it fares the rest of the way in the SEC tournament, but Fulkerson's status is in question.

The 6'9" senior has been a key contributor for the Vols this season, averaging 9.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.

With Fulkerson out Saturday, Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes went with a smaller lineup by inserting guard Josiah Jordan-James into the starting five.

While Jordan-James is only seventh on the team in scoring this season, he is one of seven players averaging at least 8.0 points per game.

Tennessee has very little depth outside of its top seven players, as No. 8 scorer Olivier Nkamhoua averages just 2.5 points per game, meaning the Vols can ill afford to be without Fulkerson during the NCAA tournament.