FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas waded through a difficult performance without its third- and fourth-leading scorer in an 88-74 loss at LSU last Saturday.
But Arkansas coach Mike Anderson will have his full compliment of players available when the Razorbacks return to the court Wednesday night.
Guard Michael Qualls and forward Alandise Harris have been reinstated after being suspended indefinitely because of “conduct detrimental to the team.” Anderson said Monday afternoon he met with both players and they were scheduled to rejoin the Razorbacks in preparation for Wednesday’s game against Alabama.
“There were some things they had to do,” Anderson said. “Had some conditions that they’ve got to meet. And, at this point here, they’ve satisfied that. Met with me; know we’re ready to move forward.”
Neither player traveled to LSU. Anderson revealed earlier Monday on the Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference they had not been practicing since Arkansas’ loss to Missouri. He said at the time Qualls and Harris remained on indefinite suspension, but changed his mind hours later after meeting with them.
Qualls is averaging 11.7 points a game, while Harris contributes 9.1. Both players have struggled during Southeastern Conference play, shooting a combined 29.5 percent (33-for-112). But Anderson believes his team missed the two at LSU.
Arkansas fell into a 20-point hole in the first half. The Razorbacks cut the deficit to six in the second half, but couldn’t get any closer en route to its fourth road loss.
“I think this team is a family,” Anderson said. “Some of their family members didn’t have a chance to play, so I think that’s huge. And what those guys brought to the table. You’re talking about your (third)-leading scorer, and maybe your fourth-leading scorer. They bring a level of toughness, athletic ability to our team.”
Anderson has not revealed the specific reasons for the suspension.
He also didn’t offer what role they’ll play in Arkansas’ next game against Alabama, but intends to continue using a lineup that includes freshmen Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley together in the frontcourt. He said Arkansas wore down during its comeback against LSU, though, hoping Qualls and Harris will help resolve the issue.
The Razorbacks, who are tied with Auburn for 12th in the 14-team SEC standings, have lost four of their past five games. They are trying to stop the slide against Alabama (9-12, 3-5 in SEC), which also has lost four of its past five games.
Guard Mardracus Wade said Arkansas is glad Qualls and Harris are back to help.
“I thought they looked really good in practice (Monday), and I’m looking forward to them playing the rest of the season,” Wade said.
Stuck in Mud
Arkansas’ loss at LSU wasn’t the only thing that went wrong Saturday. The Razorbacks also were delayed in their return after their charter plane slipped off the runway before the trip home and couldn’t get out of the mud.
“We had a little roundabout and we kind of ran off the runway a little bit there,” Anderson said. “One of the wheels came off the runway. So it’s there in the grass and as you try to rev it up it wasn’t going anywhere.”
Anderson said Arkansas had to get out of the plane and return to the terminal, then waited several hours for another one to arrive. Anderson called it “bonding time.”
The Razorbacks didn’t get back to Northwest Arkansas until 3 a.m.
“That’s adversity there,” Anderson said. “You get your butt kicked and then you’ve got to stay there as well. But we got home before the snow and the bad weather. The guys had the day off (Sunday), so I’m sure they slept quite a bit.”
Arkansas continues to slide down Ratings Percentage Index as the losses mount.
The Razorbacks — who were No. 77 in the NCAA’s RPI last week — dropped 15 spots to No. 92. Arkansas is eighth in the SEC behind Florida (2), Kentucky (13), Tennessee (39), Missouri (52), LSU (54), Ole Miss (57) and Vanderbilt (74).
Arkansas is 4-6 against the RPI’s top 100 with wins against Kentucky, Minnesota (38), Southern Methodist (48) and Clemson (77).
The RPI helps determine postseason tournament fields.