Gators lose starting center Egbunu for rest of season

GAINESVILLE — No. 15 Florida, one of the hottest teams in the country after winning its seventh straight, suffered a severe blow Wednesday when starting center John Egbunu was ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee.2 Weeks...

Gators lose starting center Egbunu for rest of season

GAINESVILLE — No. 15 Florida, one of the hottest teams in the country after winning its seventh straight, suffered a severe blow Wednesday when starting center John Egbunu was ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee.

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The 6-foot-11, 255-pound rim protector from Nigeria was injured in the first half of Tuesday's 114-95 win at Auburn. He faces a 10- to 12-month recovery process, the school said.

"We're all disappointed for John," coach Mike White said in a statement of the redshirt junior. "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."

It's the latest setback this season for Egbunu, who transferred to Florida in 2014 after his freshman year at USF. He had offseason thumb surgery that forced him to miss several months. In December, a hamstring injury sidelined him for two games.

Egbunu entered the Auburn game coming off his first double double of the season. He finished a 71-62 home win Saturday against Texas A&M with 11 points, 10 rebounds and no turnovers.

He ends the season averaging 7.8 points and a team-leading 6.6 rebounds in 24 games, including 19 starts.

Egbunu's loss thrusts Hayes into a much more prominent role for the Gators (21-5, 11-2 SEC), co-leaders with Kentucky atop the conference. The 6-9, 218-pound sophomore averages 15.3 minutes but has made the most of his time, averaging 6.2 points and 3.8 rebounds, and shooting 63.6 percent from the field. Hayes has a team-high 41 blocks, including 17 during the current winning streak.

Senior Schuyler Rimmer also will have to become more than a bit player. The 6-10 Orlando native has just 22 points and 14 rebounds this season.

UF also said 6-11 freshman Gorjok Gak, who has appeared in just 10 games, sprained his foot in practice and could miss up to two weeks.

No. 18 Cincy tops Bulls

TAMPA — Four nights after beating East Carolina to snap a 12-game skid, USF fell back to reality against No. 18 Cincinnati.

The Bulls hung around early but never led, opening the second half just 3-of-17 from the floor, as the Bearcats pulled away in a 68-54 win before an announced 2,679 at the Sun Dome.

USF (7-18, 1-13 AAC) has dropped 20 straight against Top 25 opponents, with its last win coming at Louisville in 2012.

"It was a hard matchup for us, but I thought the effort was good," USF interim coach Murry Bartow said. "We competed hard, we just ended up getting beat."

The Bulls never mustered any consistency against UC's fullcourt press, committing 21 turnovers. The Bearcats (23-3, 12-1) put it away with a 10-0 surge to start the second half and led by as much as 24 with 2:16 remaining. Cincinnati was coming off its first loss in two months, 60-51 Sunday at SMU.

Geno Thorpe paced USF with a game-high 19 points.

No. 10 UNC 97, N.C. State 73: Joel Berry scored 18 to help the visiting Tar Heels (22-5, 10-3 ACC) stay atop the conference.

Women: Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored 16 of her 22 in the first half as No. 2 Maryland (26-1, 14-0 Big Ten) breezed past Wisconsin 89-40 for its 14th straight victory.

Times correspondent Jeff Odom contributed to this report.

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