Sports

Gators’ Payne sits following SEC elbow incident

Florida survived in overtime to beat Virginia Tech 75-70 on Friday despite opening the NCAA tournament without key sophomore forward Omar Payne, who was held out of the game by coach Mike White.

Payne was ejected from the SEC tournament quarterfinals early in the second half last week for a flagrant foul 2 after elbowing Tennessee’s John Fulkerson. Fulkerson suffered a concussion and facial fracture and was uncertain for Tennessee’s NCAA tournament opener against Oregon State.

“It wasn’t overly difficult,” White said of playing without the 6-foot-10 Payne after the game. “It’s difficult that he can’t play obviously, but it was the right thing to do. That’s it. Omar handled it like a champ. Omar’s very remorseful. We all make mistakes. He’s a great young man. And we were able to overcome [it]. Fortunately, without him, who I thought could have obviously helped us in a lot of ways today.”

Florida had two forwards, Anthony Duruji and Osayi Osifo, foul out of the game against the 10th-seeded Hokies.

White was noncommittal about whether Payne would be able to play in the Gators’ next NCAA tournament game, and said, “It’s an in-house situation, I’m not going to talk about it.”

The SEC didn’t suspend Payne, who is averaging 3.7 points and 3.2 rebounds in about 16 minutes a game this season.

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