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.”
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.”
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