Volunteers forward John Fulkerson has been ruled out for the remainder of the SEC tournament due to facial injuries suffered in Tennessee's win against Florida on Friday, the school announced.
Fulkerson's facial injuries came from being hit with an elbow to his head from Gators' Omar Payne, who received a flagrant foul and was ejected from the game.
"That was a dirty play," Tennessee forward Yves Pons told reporters Friday. "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."
Fulkerson said Payne personally reached out to him Saturday morning to apologize.
"I know a lot of people are upset with what happened during [Friday's] game," Fulkerson said. "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!"
In his apology, Payne said he had deep regrets about the altercation.
"I have nothing but respect for John and Tennessee program," Payne said. "Especially for their support of my brother Keyontae this season. I wish them the best on their NCAA tournament run."
Fulkerson, a senior, has started in 55 games over two seasons and averaged 9.5 points and 5.5 rebounds. He finished with eight points in 19 minutes in the Volunteers' win on Friday.
In Tennessee's regular season finale against Florida, Fulkerson scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Tennessee (17–7) received byes for the first two rounds of the tournament. The Volunteers will play Alabama in the semifinals of the SEC tournament at noon on Saturday.