In the midst of kickboxing Kentucky for the SEC regular-season title and chasing a No. 2 seed in the process, 15th-ranked Florida announced some bad news on Wednesday.
Gators center John Egbunu -- a vital rim protector -- is going to miss the rest of the season. Egbunu tore his left ACL on Tuesday night in the first half of Florida’s 114-95 win at Auburn. In its press release, Florida estimates the injury to be serious enough to put his return at 10-12 months.
Three Things to Know
1. It’s not the only injury affecting the Gators right now
Egbunu is a redshirt junior. He averaged 7.8 points and 6.6 rebounds this season. But making matters tougher, Florida’s freshman center, Gorjok Gak, has a left foot sprain that will keep him out up two two weeks. Florida is 11-2 in the SEC, tied with Kentucky at the top of the conference standings.
“We’re all disappointed for John,” Florida coach Mike White said in a statement. “He’s been playing really well of late, so it’s a tough blow to him and our team. He’s a great young man, and unfortunately injuries are a part of basketball. He’ll be back even stronger.”
2. The Gators need to adjust quickly, they play Kentucky next week
The only significant game remaining in the SEC this season goes down in Lexington on Feb. 25. Florida defeated UK by the demeaning score of 88-66 back on Feb. 5. Neither team has lost since that game, with the Gators on a seven-game winning streak. Few teams have played as well over the past three weeks as White’s crew, but losing Egbunu could easily mean Florida won’t be able to keep Kentucky from being productive down low when they meet again. He had grown into a nice piece around the rim.
3. Replacing the big man is not tenable, defensively
Egbunu is a big loss. He transferred from South Florida and turned into a very good defensive player. Florida has primarily thrived because of reliable back court play, but losing a 6-foot-11 big-body presence in the paint so late into the season can change the dynamics of how you play. Sophomore Kevarrius Hayes, who stands 6-9, will probably get more minutes, and senior Justin Leon now gets tasked with keeping UF elite on defense.