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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats need strong Ristic in desperate way

Alex McIntyre
Arizona center Dusan Ristic (14) snags a rebound against UC Irvine in McKale Center on Tuesday, Dec. 6. The Wildcats beat the Anteaters 79-57.

Arizona junior center Dusan Ristic’s role at the beginning of the season until now has been simple: just be an anchor in the middle, play defense and get rebounds.

Ristic was essentially supposed to be another glue and make up for the absence of the departed Kaleb Tarczewski. But after evaluating the Gonzaga game as well as the University of California, Irvine game Tuesday, Arizona needs him now more than ever on both sides of the ball—specifically on defense with Arizona’s sudden lack of depth.

“There are only seven scholarship players, and that is pretty much the rotation,” Ristic said. “If one player gets in foul trouble, then the whole team gets in foul trouble.”

It sounds far-fetched that Ristic of all players would become one of the most valuable considering the size of fellow frontcourt members—6-foot-11 Chance Comanche and 7-foot Lauri Markkanen—but Ristic is a true back-to-the-basket center who adds a large body by the rim.

It was a given that Markkanen would play more on the perimeter because he is a natural power forward and Comanche has only shown scoring capabilities in games this season either on the fast break or when he cuts to basket. Very seldom has Comanche actually backed down a defender or drawn a double team.

There hasn’t been a true post presence until this season, and with Ristic’s first season starting consistently, every now and again Arizona fans see glimpses of a payoff from going head-to-head with Tarczewski for two seasons.

Ristic is more valuable than ever, and he set the tone on the offensive side of the ball Tuesday night, scoring 14 points in the first half when the game was in a bit of a lull. His offensive awareness has never been doubted, but his offensive decision making has been a head scratcher, seeing as that piece of the puzzle is vital to his success moving forward. His defensive strength will also need some tweaking as well.

Ristic was vulnerable against a big body in Gonzaga’s Karnowski, and Tuesday’s matchup against UC Irvine wasn’t going to be that much of a drop off matching up with 7-foot-2 Ioannis Dimakopoulos. Ristic arguably had the best game of his career Tuesday, posting 18 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of his career and his first one this season. Fourteen of those points came in the first half.

Safe to say Ristic learned his lesson from the LA trip and came in more “prepared.”

“I faced another 7-footer and like I said, I came in more prepared,” he said.

If Ristic continues to learn from his experiences against bruisers like Gonzaga big Przemek Karnowski, and use it as an advantage over other 7-footers, then he will be in shape to arguably be a top-three center in the Pac-12 Conference.

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.


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