Tennessee basketball's John Fulkerson out of SEC Tournament with concussion, facial fracture

Mike Wilson
Knoxville News Sentinel

John Fulkerson is out for the rest of the SEC Tournament due to a concussion and facial fracture suffered against Florida on Friday, a UT spokesperson told Knox News on Saturday.

The Tennessee basketball senior forward left UT's 78-66 win against Florida after Gators forward Omar Payne elbowed him twice in the head. UT plays Alabama on Saturday (1 p.m. ET, ESPN) in the SEC Tournament semifinals.

Rick Barnes said Friday that Fulkerson was taken to a Nashville hospital “just for observation.” Barnes was told that Fulkerson’s eye was being evaluated.

“That was a dirty play,” Vols forward Yves Pons said. “That is nothing to do on a basketball court. We took it personally. We love John. We play for him. We had his back.”

Fulkerson scored eight points in 19 minutes for the Vols before Payne removed him from the game with a vicious pair of elbows with 17:10 to play.

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Fulkerson and Payne battled for rebounding position as Keon Johnson attempted a floater. The shot went in. Payne turned and rocked Fulkerson with a left elbow after the shot. Payne started to run down the court, then swung a right elbow into Fulkerson’s head.

Tennessee forward John Fulkerson (10) holds his head after an injury during the second half of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament game against Florida at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, March 12, 2021.

Pons ran to Fulkerson’s defense, confronting Payne at the 3-point line. Referees and players from both teams got between Pons and Payne. Barnes came out to pull his players back to the Vols bench.

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Fulkerson was down on the court for an extended period before being helped off the court. He did not return after he went down the tunnel with trainer Chad Newman and UT head team physician Dr. Chris Klenck.

Payne was called for a flagrant-2 foul and was ejected.

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.