Tennessee Volunteers forward John Fulkerson missed Saturday’s SEC tournament game against Alabama because of facial injuries suffered in Friday’s win over Florida.

Fulkerson left Friday’s game after receiving two elbows to the head from Florida’s Omar Payne, who was ejected.

“That was a dirty play,” Tennessee forward Yves Pons said to 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, a 6-foot-9 senior who has started 55 games over the past two seasons, is averaging 9.5 points and 5.5 rebounds this season. He had 14 points and seven rebounds against Florida in the regular-season finale and had eight points in 19 minutes against the Gators on Friday.

Rick Barnes opted to go with a smaller lineup against Alabama on Saturday, with sophomore guard Josiah-Jordan James stepping in for Fulkerson. James finished with 4 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block in the 73-68 loss.

After the game, Barnes said he’s not sure whether Fulkerson will be available for the NCAA tournament. ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Volunteers (18-8) as a No. 5 seed.


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