Jack Gohlke: March Madness Sharpshooter

Photo of Jack Gohlke in the March Madness showcasing his prowess.

Kentucky has developed a concerning pattern of propelling opposing players to NCAA tournament fame. In the past two years, it was Doug Edert, the energetic sixth man from Saint Peter’s, and Markquis Nowell, the small but impactful player from Kansas State, celebrated in his hometown of New York City. This Thursday night, all eyes were on Jack Gohlke, a sharpshooter from Oakland granted ample opportunities to shoot.

Gohlke contributed to Kentucky’s recent struggles in March, scoring an impressive 32 points primarily through catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, leading 14th-seeded Oakland to a remarkable 80-76 upset over the heavily favored Wildcats. His 10 successful 3-pointers narrowly missed tying the single-game NCAA tournament record set by LMU’s Jeff Fryer in 1990.

Despite his outstanding performance, Gohlke expressed dissatisfaction, stating, “I’m always disappointed if I miss one, even if I made 10 out of 11.” Later, he mentioned to reporters, “I was literally telling [teammate Trey Townsend] as we were walking in here I should have made 13.”

During the first half, Gohlke demonstrated his skill with seven successful three-pointers, assisting Horizon League champion Oakland in securing a 38-35 lead. Onlookers in Pittsburgh marveled at the performance of this graduate transfer from Division II Hillsdale College, audibly gasping whenever Gohlke prepared to take a shot.

Despite encountering tight defense from Kentucky’s Antonio Reeves and Reed Sheppard in the second half, who closely shadowed him beyond the three-point line and pursued him through off-ball screens, Gohlke still managed to sink three additional three-pointers. His only points outside of three-pointers were two free throws, awarded after Sheppard collided with him while attempting a top-of-the-key jumper with 3:33 remaining in the game.

Gohlke’s exceptional shooting display propelled Oakland to its first victory in the Round of 64 in the NCAA tournament since the program moved to Division I in 1997. Now, the Golden Grizzlies will strive to become just the third No. 14 seed ever to progress to the Sweet 16. Nevertheless, they are cautious about embracing the Cinderella label.

“Without a doubt, we’re perceived as the underdogs in every aspect, but as a player, you can’t succumb to that mentality,” Gohlke emphasized. “You have to approach the game with the belief that you possess the same level of talent as your opponents. While I acknowledge they may have NBA prospects, and my path might not lead there, I firmly believe that on any given night, I can compete with them, and so can our team.”

It’s unsurprising for those following Oakland’s season that all 20 of Gohlke’s shots against Kentucky were from beyond the arc. Throughout the regular season, the 6-foot-3 guard attempted a remarkable 335 field goals, with only eight of them not being three-pointers. Gohlke boasts a 37% success rate from long range.

While such a one-dimensional approach is uncommon in college basketball, it’s not unprecedented at Oakland. Coach Greg Kampe’s system demands a sharpshooter with the confidence to take shots whenever the opportunity arises.

In the 2015-16 season, all 257 of Oakland sharpshooter Max Hooper’s shots were from behind the arc. Similarly, Trevor Bader primarily attempted threes during his tenure with Oakland from 2010-14.

According to Kampe, having an elite shooter on the team forces defenders to account for them, effectively making the offense operate as if it’s 4-on-4. If Gohlke’s defender sticks close to him beyond the three-point line, it creates space for others to drive to the basket or score inside. Conversely, if the defender shifts focus elsewhere, it leaves Gohlke free to exploit his deadly three-point shooting.

This strategy proved invaluable during Thursday’s second half when Kentucky employed a box-and-one defense on Gohlke. The Wildcats devoted so much attention to Gohlke that it opened up opportunities for Trey Townsend and DQ Cole to contribute.

Later in the game, TV cameras captured a visibly fatigued Gohlke rehydrating and receiving massages during timeouts. His relentless effort, constantly navigating screens and seeking shots, was evident.

When asked after Thursday’s victory if he had checked his phone, Gohlke revealed that he usually leaves his phone off for a while after games to fully immerse himself in the moment. “I’ll probably check it in a couple of hours,” he mentioned.

Despite his newfound fame in March Madness, Gohlke remains focused on the upcoming challenge. “Right now, my mind is solely on tomorrow, our preparation for either NC State or Texas Tech,” he declared confidently. “We’re going to step out there and secure another victory.”


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