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Feb 16, 2024 9:17 pm

Washington seeks strong finish as hard-luck Cal visits

"Koren Johnson"

Washington guard Koren Johnson is a key factor in the Huskies’ pursuit of a third straight win on Saturday when they host Pac-12 Conference counterpart Cal in Seattle, and not just because he is coming off a career-high scoring performance.

“The thing I’ve been most proud of with Koren before this game is his playmaking ability for others,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said on Thursday following Johnson’s 30-point showing in an 85-65 rout of Stanford.

Johnson, Washington’s fourth-leading scorer on the season at 9.4 points per game, shot 6 of 10 from 3-point range in a win that keeps alive his team’s hopes of NCAA Tournament at-large consideration.

The Huskies (14-11, 6-8 Pac-12) rebounded from a stretch losing four of five with a pair of wins by double-digit points at Oregon State and Thursday’s victory, improving their NET ranking to No. 67 as of Friday.

Washington begins its regular-season closing, six-game stretch with Cal’s visit. The Huskies won the first meeting 77-75 on Jan. 18 in Berkeley, Calif.

Keion Brooks Jr. scored 21 points for Washington in the prior encounter, right in line with his season-long, Pac-12-leading scoring average. Johnson scored only two points for the Huskies coming off the bench, but he dished five assists.

Jaylon Tyson, who ranks second in the conference at 20 points per game, posted 17 points against Washington.

The Golden Bears (10-15, 6-8) have been much improved under first-year coach Mark Madsen, far exceeding last year’s 3-29 final record. But they come into Saturday’s matchup off one of their more lopsided losses with an 84-65 defeat on Thursday at Washington State.

Tyson scored 18 points in the loss and Fardaws Aimaq, whose 11.1 rebounds per game lead the Pac-12, grabbed 11 boards. A positive from the loss, Madsen said on his postgame radio interview, was the play of Rodney Brown Jr. with 12 points off the bench.

“I told Rodney, ‘Just play free and easy. Don’t look over your shoulder at me,'” Madsen said. “‘You have the ultimate green light.’ And he showed that. He showed the poised, he showed the confidence.”

The freshman Brown was scoreless in his three previous outings, but could provide Cal with additional scoring pop off the bench if he builds off his third career double-figure-scoring performance.

–Field Level Media

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