It wasn't pretty for the No. 21 Oregon Ducks (7-1, 2-0), who trailed by as much as seven in the second half, but as they say, a win is a win.
Dana Altman's team did just enough to remain undefeated in conference play on New Year's Eve, holding off Cal, 82-69, at Matthew Knight Arena.
Rutgers transfer Eugene Omoruyi continued his Pac-12 Player of the Year campaign leading Oregon with 26 points on 10-14 from the field to go with six rebounds and five steals.
Here are the key takeaways.
Aaron Estrada can play!
Originally, Estrada was ineligible to play this season but the NCAA decided to waive the transfer waiting period for all players in college basketball, which paved the way for the former MAAC Rookie of the Year to contribute this season. He did so Thursday, helping keep the Ducks in the game late in the first half including a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give Oregon a one-point halftime lead.
Estrada finished with six points which also included an and-one.
Chris Duarte can close a game.
Heading into the 2020-21 college basketball season and with Payton Pritchard now closing games for the Boston Celtics, it was unclear who Oregon would rely on down the stretch of close games.
On Thursday evening, that player was Chris Duarte who hit back-to-back three-pointers to give Oregon a nine-point lead with 4:09 left in the half. The first shot was created by Duarte himself and the second was assisted by Amuari Hardy. Later, Duarte hit another two three-pointers to extend the lead to double digits.
If Duarte, who finished the game with 19 points, can reliably create offense late in the second halves of games, it will heavily increase the ceiling for Oregon.
Oregon needs to figure out how to defeat a zone.
Just like against Washington to open up Pac-12 play, the Ducks struggled to get good offensive shots with the defense playing a 2-3 zone. That's inexcusable for a college team to have difficulty figuring out a high school defense, especially when Oregon seems to play against it nearly every game now.
Oregon has enough shooters to make a team playing zone defense pay. It's just a matter of running Altman's offense well and setting good off-ball screens.
Also, playing through Omoruyi at the elbow should kill teams who go to a zone against them.
Aaron Estrada hit a running three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give the Ducks the lead.
Oregon held Cal to 27.3% three-point shooting in the second half after allowing the Golden Bears to shoot 50% from beyond the arc in the first half.
"I thought Eugene did a lot of good things and the five steals - his activity there was really good," said head coach Dana Altman. "He was really unstoppable inside."
The Next Game
Oregon will host Stanford (5-2, 1-0) on Saturday, January 2nd at 7:00 p.m. PT.