First let me say there is no truth to the rumor senior center Dusan Ristic will be starting Saturday’s game with Utah at the point guard position.
Never mind what you may have seen when he dribbled almost ¾ of the way up the court before handing the ball over to Parker Jackson-Cartwright.
“That’s that deal where you watch one dribble, you watch three and then you say, ‘he’d better hand the ball off,’” said Sean Miller, cracking a smile when asked about Ristic’s great game that included his point guard-like moves.
It was that kind of night for Arizona (17-4, 7-1 in Pac-12) when seemingly everyone had a big play – or a hand – in Arizona’s 80-71 win over Colorado. Heck, it even left Miller smiling in the end. That’s as rare as a Ristic Curley Neal impression.
In that (magical) sequence, Ristic was able to pass the ball and get it back and then score on a non-Ristic-move, a spin to the basket that gave Arizona a 53-41 lead with 12:41 left.
Miller called it a game of “confidence” for Ristic.
“They just let me open; it was open,” Ristic said of the spin. “I wasn’t thinking about it.”
Then he was asked if he was more impressed with his spin move or his finger roll. He couldn’t remember the finger roll, then, well, did.
“That was fun too,” he said. “It was a good finger roll.”
Whatever the case, Ristic has been on a roll for a while now, becoming a key in Arizona’s offensive success. Big games here, and sometimes there. Arizona continues to go to him often. And he’s coming through. On Thursday night, he came through with near perfection, hitting 7 of 8 shots, finishing with 15 points and pulling down eight rebounds.
Best game in an Arizona uniform?
“You guys keep asking that,” he said, with a smile.
Good answer, meaning his bar continues to rise perhaps because the stakes do, too.
“I don’t have a lot of games left in McKale,” he said. “I just have a few more and I am just trying to give my maximum effort. I am trying to help this team win as many games as we can.”
Against Colorado, every play mattered, particularly in the second half when the two teams felt like they were playing dueling banjos on the offensive end. UA shot 69.6 percent, 16 of 23 from the floor. Colorado shot 69.2 percent, hitting 18 of 26 shots.
Colorado coach Tad Boyle called Arizona a “juggernaut” in the second half.
Miller kind of quipped he wasn’t sure if it was because of good offense or bad defense on each team’s part.
What helped Arizona was its 7-0 spurt to start the second half and one that expanded to 15-4 in the early part of the half.
Arizona had just enough good plays to pull away from Colorado. And seemingly every play mattered.
All seemed picturesque. How about the alley-oop pass from Ristic (there he is again) to Deandre Ayton to make it 55-46?
How about all 12 made free throws by Ayton, who finished with 20 points?
Trier had his moments, too. Miller said it may have been one of Trier’s best games. “I thought he was an All American type of player,” Miller said.
He had a driving one-handed strong-armed lay-up. He later hit a jumper to make it 65-59 and then got a rebound, drove the court and then found an open Dylan Smith in the corner for 3-pointer. Arizona went from 60-59 to what felt like a commanding 65-59 lead.
Of course, it was hardly commanding because Colorado wouldn’t go away.
Until Trier hit another 3-pointer – his second of the night – to make it 74-68 could Arizona start feeling a bit better. Then came the dagger from Jackson-Cartwright, who nailed a 3-pointer to make it 78-70 to all but seal the deal.
“We were out of sorts there,” Miller said on PJC’s big shot. “I told him to get open to get the ball (to) recognize the shot clock, get us into some offense. We almost didn’t do anything right. Sometimes the ball doesn’t go in. Sometimes that happens against us as well. He and Allonzo both had challenged shots and the fact they both went in helped us win.”
Colorado coach Tad Boyle recognized those two shots as the daggers that ended any chance for a sweep.