Gohlke on UK upset: Oakland 'not a Cinderella'

PITTSBURGH — Don’t fit Jack Gohlke and the Oakland Golden Grizzlies for a glass slipper.

They don’t want it.

After thwarting third-seeded Kentucky 80-76, thanks in large part to his 10 3-pointers, Gohlke spurned the cliche title bestowed on lower seeds who upset the tournament’s top-tier teams.

“Obviously, we come in, we’re the underdog by all measures, but as a player you can’t think that way,” Gohlke said. “You got to go out there and think you have the same talent level as them. I know they have draft picks, and I know I’m not going to the NBA, but I know on any given night I can compete with those guys — and our team can.

“That’s why I say we’re not a Cinderella, because when we play our A-game, we can be the best team on the floor.”

On Thursday night they were, leading Kentucky for nearly 28 minutes. And Gohlke, who spent the first five seasons of his career, including a redshirt year, at Division II Hillsdale College, was arguably the best player on the hardwood, lighting up the scoreboard with a career-high 32 points on a 10-of-20 performance from beyond the arc.

Two of his points came from free throws, fittingly taken after he was fouled on his 19th 3-point attempt with 3:33 left in the second half.

“He’s a good shooter,” Kentucky guard Antonio Reeves said. “He kept shooting the ball. He missed a couple, but he made a lot of them, and he made some really tough shots down the stretch. We was in his face and it was just one of those things where it’s March, and they’re going to hit some tough shots at the end, and we just got to keep playing.”

The night before his first, and Oakland’s fourth, NCAA tournament game ever, Gohlke caught up with his parents for a couple of minutes in the team hotel. His mom, Lisa, tried to get her youngest child to loosen up, but even then Gohlke was locked in.

“We kept saying, ‘Just have fun. Take it all in,'” Lisa said, her eyes brimming with tears after the game. “He said, ‘I’m not here to have fun. We’re here to win. This is a business trip.’

This time a year ago, Gohlke, a native of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, made the decision to leave Hillsdale and play for coach Greg Kampe in his final year of eligibility. In four seasons at Hillsdale, Gohlke averaged 1.8 made 3-pointers per game, shooting 38.2% from beyond the arc.

But at Oakland under Kampe, he blossomed into a pure shooter, hitting 121 of 327 3-pointers this season. In his whole time at Hillsdale, he was 184-for-482 on 3s.

“To think of all that has happened in this one year, unbelievable,” Lisa said. “And for him to, first of all just get the opportunity to play for Kampe, and just get the green light to be a shooter. I mean, that’s every shooter’s dream.

“He did it. He did it, and they did it together. It’s amazing.”

After missing his first two 3-point attempts early, Gohlke got straight to business and hit four triples in four minutes. Gohlke hit the first two on back-to-back possessions, and then after a couple of minutes, made two more on consecutive possessions. At halftime, he was 7-for-13 from 3.

“Once Jack makes three [3-pointers] it’s, OK, he’s got it going,” forward Trey Townsend said. “It could be him. It could be Blake Lampman]. And like [coach Greg] Kampe said, today it was Jack. I think that’s the great thing about this team, is that any given night any one of us can do that.

“But it’s definitely a special thing watching him just 3 after 3 after 3 and he gets so hype out there and it just gives us all momentum and excitement to keep playing hard, so it was great to see.”

With each bucket, the raucous crowd across from Oakland’s bench exploded, reaching a fever pitch as he hit his 10th 3-pointer to give the Grizzlies a 67-62 lead with 4:35 to go.

Among the Oakland faithful was a large contingent of Gohlke’s high school teammates and his family, and each time the guard scored, his sister Jennifer’s fiancé, wearing a black Hillsdale College T-shirt, lifted a giant fathead cutout of Gohlke’s face — brought to PPG Paints Arena by his aunt — above the crowd.

“You just have to hold on, and hope that they can hold on,” Lisa said. “They were so confident coming in here, and we take our confidence from Jack, and he just was not going to be shut down.

“I’m so proud of him, so proud of this team, so proud of them just doing what they set out to do in June of last year.”

Gohlke’s 10 triples were one off from tying the NCAA tournament single-game record set in 1990 by Jeff Fryer, but it’s not the first time he’s gotten that hot. A month ago, Gohlke also drilled 10 3-pointers in a game, that time against IUPUI in a regular-season game that didn’t attract one iota of the attention Gohlke and the Golden Grizzlies gained in their prime-time win against one of college basketball’s blue bloods.

“Earlier this year he had 10 3s, and this stage is a whole lot different, and the competition is a whole lot different,” said Jack’s dad, Dave Gohlke. “This was just extra special.”

As the buzzer sounded to seal Oakland’s improbable win, the Gohlke family screamed and cried from the stands, watching their son and brother step up in the brightest spotlight. Lisa and Jennifer clung to each other and cried, and then as Gohlke walked by on his way from a gauntlet of radio interviews to the team locker room, they stretched out their arms and held up their pinky, index finger and thumb, signing “I love you” to Gohlke.

But Gohlke isn’t done, and neither are the Grizzlies. They don’t need a glass slipper to keep on dancing.

“If we were pretenders, we would have folded, and that’s what Jack meant by that Cinderella thing,” Kampe said. “We don’t look at ourselves that way. We’re not pretenders. We believe that we belong here.

“… We belong. I agree with Jack. We don’t want that Cinderella slipper. We want to be known as when we’re playing on Saturday, whoever we’re playing, we want the respect that this is a good basketball team.”

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