Down nine points in the second half of the quarterfinal of the SEC Tournament, Florida sophomore Omar Payne took – not one, but two – shots at Tennessee senior John Fulkerson.
The first blow was a forearm to the neck area of Fulkerson. The intent of the offering was hardly arguable. It was the second leg of the combination that sold the malice of the whole act.
Omar Payne is ejected after using a pair of hard elbows on John Fulkerson.pic.twitter.com/djP88W3Jl9
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) March 12, 2021
Fulkerson would lay on the court for several minutes after the blows. The forward then exited slowly, walking gingerly while squinting his eyes. Payne was charged with a Flagrant 2 foul and ejected from the game.
The Vols were up by as many as 14 points in the first half. Fulkerson exited the game with eight points, four of which were scored in the second half. The Flagrant 2 was called with 17:10 left in the game.
It was Fulkerson’s energy and efficiency on transition that gave the Gators fits. Tennessee’s effort on the boards was reflected in its readiness. Senior Yves Pons finished the game with a school-record nine blocks and eight rebounds. The Vols outrebounded UF 38-32.
On Friday, Tennessee was the team that played with the type of toughness that the sport of basketball tends to yield in March. Payne’s behavior was that of a player that chooses cowardice over adversity.
The Vols move on to face Alabama in the semi-final round of the tournament after beating the Gators 78-66.
Tennessee has now outscored Florida by 23 points in their last two meetings. Payne has just four points in 30 minutes during those contests.