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Utah vs. Arizona: Dusan Ristic scores 18 points, dedicates the Wildcats’ win to his late grandfather

Ristic’s grandfather passed away earlier in the day

Utah v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

You wouldn’t have known it from the 18 points he effortlessly poured in and his collected demeanor in his post-game interview, but there was something weighing heavily on Dusan Ristic’s mind before he took the court on Thursday night — and it had nothing to do with basketball.

Earlier in the day, Ristic learned that his grandfather had passed away.

“Unlike a lot of kids on our team, it’s not like he’s going to be able to go home,” head coach Sean Miller said after Arizona’s 66-56 win over Utah. “So he knew that and just to watch him handle that...he’s a special guy and he played great tonight.”

Indeed. The Serbian dropped 18 points — tying a season-high— on 7-10 shooting, while grabbing eight rebounds, and dishing out what Miller called “the best pass of the night.”

With Arizona up 55-48 late in the second half, Ristic was trapped by the Utes near the baseline, but he calmly worked out of it, finding an open Rawle Alkins for a 3-pointer to the seal the game shut.

“He got trapped, he was poised, he used his dribble, he kept dribbling and he skipped it to Rawle,” Miller said. “It was a great pass.”

Dusan Ristic finds Rawle Alkins open in the corner

It’s a play that Ristic probably doesn’t make in his first two seasons with the Wildcats.

“To watch his development, it’s fun because...there isn’t a better kid that’s playing college basketball than him,” Miller said. “He’s worked hard.”

That hard work led to Ristic’s third double-figure scoring game in a row and his ninth in the last ten games.

A little extra motivation didn’t hurt either.

“I will miss him greatly,” Ristic tweeted about his grandfather. “I would like to dedicate this win to him.”

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire