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Florida's Micah Handlugten suffered a horrific lower leg injury in the SEC title game and was taken to a local hospital

Florida's Micah Handlugten suffered a horrific lower leg injury in the SEC title game and was taken to a local hospital

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Less than three minutes later, the SEC Championship game between Auburn and Florida was marred by a horrific injury to 7-foot Micah Handlugten on Sunday afternoon. His lower left leg sprained on landing from an offensive rebound attempt. As play continued at the other end, Handlugten lay in a bloody heap on the pitch, covering his mouth but not hiding a look that was equal parts horror and shock. Florida coaches, medical staff and Handlugten's family rushed to his side.

Bridgestone Arena, which had been thundering moments before, was eerily silent. As medical staff threw a towel over the injured leg and others shielded the scene from the eyes of the crowd, Auburn players gathered nearby to pray. Handlugten was crying as an air splint was quickly placed on his leg and he was carefully lifted onto a stretcher.

Among the silent crowd, one fan shouted: “Be strong, Micah, be strong!” Visibly shaken teammates raced to wish him well, and Handlugten was carried from the arena on a stretcher. He received a standing ovation and then continued playing.

A UF spokesperson confirmed that Handlugten suffered a fracture in his lower leg and was taken to nearby Vanderbilt University Medical Center for further evaluation.

Handlogten, a Marshall transfer who was named Sun Belt Rookie of the Year in 2023, hasn't been a major factor for Florida in recent weeks — just nine total points in his previous six games — but he has started 32 times, including Sunday, and is averaging 5.5 points and 7.1 rebounds. He had 23 points and 17 boards on January 27 against Georgia.

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The Gators (24-10) are not short on size, and can fill in for 6-foot-10 Tyrese Samuel (14.0 points, 7.6 rebounds per game) and 6-foot-11 Alex Condon (7.8 points, 7.6 rebounds per game). 3 rebounds per game) first place. Empty on the field, but the emotional impact of such a nagging injury is difficult to quantify.

Handlugten's injury was so severe that it indicated a broken leg for Kevin Ware, who suffered a gruesome injury in the Elite Eight in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Louisville rallied around Ware and went on to win the 2013 national championship.

This story will be updated.

(Photo: Carly Mackler/Getty Images)