John Fulkerson says Florida forward Omar Payne 'remorseful' for elbows that knocked him out of game

Mike Wilson
Knoxville News Sentinel

NASHVILLE — John Fulkerson preached grace after his SEC Tournament came to an end after a pair of elbows Friday from Florida's Omar Payne, who Fulkerson said reached out and was "very remorseful."

Payne elbowed Fulkerson twice in the head early in the second half of Tennessee's 78-66 win against Florida at Bridgestone Arena. Fulkerson will miss the remainder of the SEC Tournament with a concussion and facial fracture, a UT spokesperson told Knox News on Saturday.

"I know a lot of people are upset with what happened during yesterday's game," Fulkerson wrote on Twitter. "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."

A Florida spokesperson told Knox News that Gators coach Mike White also reached out to Fulkerson.

"I'm sorry for what transpired yesterday and deeply regret the incident," Payne wrote on Twitter. "I have nothing but respect for John and the Tennessee program. Especially, their support for my brother Keyontae (Johnson) this season. I've apologized to John and wanted to also say I'm sorry publicly to him, the Tennessee team and Coach (Rick) Barnes. I wish them the best on their NCAA tournament run."

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The Vols (18-7) face top-seeded Alabama (22-6) on Saturday (1 p.m. ET, ESPN) in the SEC Tournament semifinals. 

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

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.”

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