TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona watched all of its 13-point lead over Utah disappear. Someone needed to step up and make a shot.
Of course it was Dusan Ristic, the Wildcats’ 7-foot big man, on a contested 3-pointer.
Ristic, 0 for 5 on the season from the arc, hit a 3-pointer in the final two minutes and made all three of his attempts while scoring 23 points, helping No. 11 Arizona hold off Utah 74-73 on Saturday.
“I made two before and I was confident enough to take it,” said Ristic, who eclipsed 1,000 career points with his final 3. “I usually don’t take those, even in practice.”
Despite playing without sophomore guard Rawle Alkins (foot) for the third time in four games, Arizona (18-4, 8-1 Pac-12) appeared to be in control after Ristic’s 3-pointer and two free throws put the Wildcats up four.
Utah rallied from a 13-point, second-half deficit and made it interesting at the end, pulling within 74-73 on Justin Bibbins’ 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left, then got the ball back after Arizona’s Allonzo Trier was called for an offensive foul before the ball was inbounded.
The Utes (12-9, 4-5) passed the ball inside to Donnie Tillman, but he was unable to hit a contested shot. Arizona’s Keanu Pinder then missed a free throw with 0.3 seconds left and David Collette was well short on a desperation shot from the opposite free throw line.
Sedrick Barefield led Utah with 26 points and keyed a 12-0 second-half run that pushed the Utes into the lead.
“We made enough shots to make it interesting in the end,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “It was a heck of a game and it’s unfortunate anybody has to lose.
Utah avenged an earlier loss on Thursday by knocking off No. 21 Arizona State. Barefield hit a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left and the Utes didn’t miss a shot in overtime in the 80-77 victory.
Arizona won the first meeting with Utah 94-82 in Salt Lake City on Jan. 4. Alkins had 22 points in that one, but was in street clothes for the rematch.
The Wildcats didn’t seem to miss their emotional leader, jumping out with a 14-4 run while hitting their first six shots.
The Utes gathered themselves after the early Arizona onslaught and quieted the rowdy McKale Center crowd — at least a little — with a 9-0 run to pull within 31-27 late in the first half.
Arizona kept hitting shots, though, and held Utah scoreless over the final 4:35 to lead 43-33 at halftime. The Wildcats went 16 for 23 from the floor, including 7 of 9 from the 3-point arc.
“We moved the ball well,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “We had an unselfish team.”
The Utes started making shots again in the second half. So did Arizona, keeping the lead to at least 7.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Trier each picked up fouls, giving Utah an opportunity.
The Utes took advantage even as Miller rotated both players back in, scoring 12 straight points to take a 66-65 lead with 5 ½ minutes left.
“We have a nice resilience to us and I think our guys are realizing that if you play hard and bring the fight, we have a chance,” Krystkowiak said.
Utah got only a desert split, but beating one ranked team and losing to another in one of the nation’s toughest road environments is a solid trip.
Arizona keeps finding ways to win, is firmly in control of the Pac-12 lead and could move up in Monday’s AP Top 25.
Alkins had surgery before the season for a stress fracture in his right foot, causing him to miss Arizona’s first nine games. When the soreness issue started to arise two weeks ago, Arizona decided to take a cautious route, hoping to have him pain free for March.
Miller said Alkins has been through a string of medical tests to see if there’s damage to his foot and nothing has shown up.
“He doesn’t have a fracture of any kind,” he said. “His bone is healing; in some parts it’s completely healed, other parts it’s good healing. But when a player that has a foot like that his that’s been surgically repaired and runs into discomfort all of a sudden, you really just have to shut him down.”