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.”
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.