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Dusan Ristic has the game of his career

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Simon Asher | The Daily Wildcat Arizona's Emmanuel Akot, right, and Dusan Ristic, left, share a word on the bench while watching their teammates down the court.

Dusan Ristic posted a career high 23 points and scored seven straight in the final two minutes as Arizona Men's basketball beat Utah 74-73 Saturday in the McKale Center. 

When Ristic walked into the post game press conference, he was smiling all over and announced he had a statement he wanted to make. 

"You guys (media) always ask me if this was my best game ever," Ristic said. "I think this is my best game in Arizona so far. I just wanted to answer the question in advance for you guys." 

The Wildcats had been up by as much as 13, but late in the game Utah picked up momentum, made a run and took the lead. Arizona found itself down one, with just under two minutes left, and the game on the line. 

Ristic was the answer. He made a floater to put the Wildcats up one, and then when Arizona came back down the court, the seven-foot center took the ball at the top of the key and launched a deep contested 3-pointer. Swish. 

"I really didn't know what to say," Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. "I was so surprised he took the three. I couldn't believe it. And then when that thing went in, I'm not even sure how I reacted. I'm glad it went in for him, that's what I'll say."

The shot put Arizona up four with 1:29 to go and gave Ristic 1,001 points in his career as well as moving him to the 52nd player to make it to the 1,000 point mark in Arizona history. 

Ristic wasn't done though, after making the three, Utah hit one of their own and Ristic got the ball again on the following possession, where he was fouled and went to the free throw line, to score seven straight points and put Arizona back up three. 

"I felt really confident tonight," Ristic said. "I just felt it, I had the confidence to take a shot that I don't usually take, even in practice."

Miller alluded that even though Ristic shot 3-for-3 from deep, he really isn't supposed to be taking those shots. Mentioning that fellow seven-footer Deandre Ayton also had a 3-pointer, Miller said he hopes both of them are 0-for-0 from deep in the next game. 

However, Miller was happy with the confidence Ristic has been playing with. 

"It is really, really nice to see Dusan have the confidence that he does," Miller said. "Because he hasn't always had great confidence playing here."

Miller said he takes some of the blame for Ristic not having the same level of confidence in the past. He said it could have been because he kept pulling Ristic out of the game and trying to make him a better defensive player, or it could have been because he did not fully understand his gifts on offense. 

Whatever the case may be, Ristic stepped up when Arizona needed him to the most. Utah's head coach Larry Krystkowiak called it the defining moment in the game.

"We are not going to see that we need to guard him from three on a scatter report," Krystkowiak said. "Great players step up when they need to, and all the credit goes to him. Games like this typically have defining moments in the game.. and that would be a defining example of Ristic stepping up and leading his team to victory."

Ristic has come up with clutch buckets more than once this season and continues to play at his career best, both offensively and defensively as the Wildcats start to approach the end of the regular season. 

"It's no surprise," Parker Jackson-Cartwright said. "This is a result of his work ethic, he works extremely hard, and he deserves this moment."


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