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Arizona basketball: Dusan Ristic is now comfortable in a starting role

Ristic has gotten accustomed to the pressure that comes with being in the starting lineup

Utah v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

After being Kaleb Tarczewski’s backup for two seasons, Dusan Ristic finally got the chance to be the Arizona Wildcats’ starting center in his junior year.

But that opportunity didn’t begin as planned.

Ristic had two points and three rebounds in Arizona’s season-opening win over Michigan State, and only scored in double figures twice in the Wildcats’ first six games.

"Coach (Sean) Miller mentioned once that getting the starting role at the beginning of the season can be a little pressure, and I think that was the case,” Ristic said of his early-season struggles.

Gradually, Ristic got used to that pressure, and evidently it’s now an afterthought.

In Arizona’s last 10 games, Ristic has scored in double figures nine times, averaging 13.9 points per game during that span, while shooting 63 percent from the field. The 7-footer has become more effective on defense, too.

“After the first few games of this season, I was getting my full confidence and from that point on, I just kept playing like I can," Ristic said.

In three Pac-12 conference games, Ristic is averaging 16.7 points per contest, including an 18-point outburst in a win against the Utah Utes, which matched his season-high.

“Confidence develops by making good plays in the game, and as he started to do that, you can see his game rise,” Miller said. “He’s getting the ball (and) good things are happening.”

Now the pressure is on opposing defenses to stop him.

“I just kept honoring the process everyday,” Ristic said. “I just kept doing what I’ve been doing for the last three years.”

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