Arizona Basketball

Miller: Arizona Wildcats must utilize tandem of Ayton, Ristic more

During his weekly radio show tonight, Arizona coach Sean Miller spoke more than once about the likelihood of utilizing big men Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic together more as the season progresses.

In analyzing the strategy of giving Ristic more minutes in conjunction with Ayton’s extended use, Miller repeated a fan’s question, “Again, what did you learn in the Bahamas? … That’s what we learned.”

Arizona is 3-3 and now unranked after reaching No. 2 in the polls last week. The Wildcats are in search of an identity after consecutive losses to North Carolina State, SMU and Purdue in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.

Dusan Ristic (left) and Deandre Ayton will get more playing time together on the court, according to coach Sean Miller (Stan Liu, Arizona Athletics photos)

Ristic averages 9.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 19.2 minutes a game. He is shooting 62.9 percent (22 of 35) from the field and 88.2 percent (15 of 17) from the free throw line.

Ayton averages 20.3 points and 12 rebounds in 30.5 minutes a game. He is shooting 61.1 percent (44 of 72) from the field and 70.5 percent (31 of 44) from the free throw line.

Based on his performance through the first six games, Ristic’s production if he played the same amount of minutes as Ayton: 15.6 points and 9.3 rebounds. That’s a significant almost six more points and an additional 3.5 rebounds a game.

Miller’s comment:

“(Ayton and Ristic) are shooting above 60 percent from the field. When you look at their free throw percentage, Dusan is shooting 88 percent and Deandre … he’s a much better free throw shooter than 70 (percent), but again, you add their attempts up and they are at 61 times up in six games. They get to the foul line 8-point whatever per game (actually 10.2 per game). They are shooting about 80 percent combined (actually 75.4 percent). I think the thing that is really amazing is they only have 13 turnovers in six games.

“It makes sense for our team to get them the ball. Good things are going to happen and part of what’s going to open up the 3-point line, (and) easier shots for our perimeter, is to get them the ball in scoring position and throw it to them when they are open. When we have the option of running our set plays in our transition game, to never miss that, to get it to them, put fouls on the other team and shoot 60 percent, and kick it out when it’s needed, I think it will give us a lot more balance.

“You look at Allonzo (Trier) … it’s really difficult to guard somebody like Allonzo when he has two bigs in the game who can score. We always talk about matching up against smaller teams. They also have to match up against us. We have to do an overall better job of utilizing those two guys around the basket in everything that we do.”

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Toward the end of the show when a question by another fan was asked if his upperclassmen turned the ball over too much in the Bahamas, Miller gave an answer that Trier may have turned the ball over too much (with 12 turnovers and only five assists in the three games) but he also mentioned that Trier is not entirely to blame.

He likened it to a quarterback in football taking the blame for an interception when in fact the line did not block or the receiver ran a wrong route.

“No one really knows it except the locker room,” Miller said. “We have some of that going on where somebody like Allonzo takes on the burden for some things that weren’t efficient and that led to turnovers, but let me talk about Dusan real quick …”

Miller could not pass up one last opportunity to mention the Serbian senior’s value right before his show came to an end.

“His minutes are going to come up. I don’t think he’s ever played better basketball than I watched him both in practice and the games. At first you wondered how Deandre and him would co-exist. Deandre can guard a 4-man (power forward). In fact, in that tournament, he was the best at guarding a face-up 4. We’ve learned more and more about Deandre defensively and I’m looking forward to getting those two guys clicking more on offense and utilizing that to our advantage because if you look at Dusan’s efficiency right now, it’s off the charts. That will do nothing but continue.”

The first glimpse of more Dusan (Ariz.), Tucson Dusan or “Going Ballistic” Ristic — whatever you want to call him — begins Wednesday night when Cal State Long Beach comes to McKale Center.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.


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