Meet March Madness' first star, Jack Gohlke, who thrives shooting only 3-pointers

Oakland's Jack Gohlke went off for 32 points with 10 3-pointers against Kentucky. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Oakland’s Jack Gohlke went off for 32 points with 10 3-pointers against Kentucky. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Kentucky has developed a maddening habit of making opposing players into NCAA tournament folk heroes.

Two years ago, it was Doug Edert, Saint Peter’s mustachioed sixth man.

Last year, it was Markquis Nowell, Kansas State’s 5-foot-8 Mr. New York City.

On Thursday night, it was Jack Gohlke, an Oakland sharpshooter with the greenest of green lights.

Gohlke added to Kentucky’s recent March misery, scoring a game-high 32 points on a barrage of catch-and-shoot 3-pointers to fuel 14th-seeded Oakland’s stunning 80-76 upset of the heavily favored Wildcats. The 10 3-pointers that Gohlke hit were one short of the single-game all-time NCAA tournament record, set in 1990 by LMU’s Jeff Fryer.

Seven of Gohlke’s threes came in the first half as Horizon League champ Oakland built a 38-35 lead. Fans were so awestruck by the grad transfer from Division II Hillsdale College that an audible gasp arose throughout the arena whenever Gohlke rose to shoot.

In the second half, with Kentucky’s Antonio Reeves and Reed Sheppard staying glued to him five feet behind the 3-point arc and chasing him around off-ball screens, Gohlke still connected on three more 3-pointers. His only points on anything besides a 3-pointer were two free throws after Sheppard barreled into him while he was attempting a top-of-the-key jumper with 3:33 remaining.

It’s no surprise to anyone who has watched Oakland this season that all 20 of Gohlke’s shots against Kentucky came from behind the arc. All but eight of the 6-foot-3 guard’s 335 field goal attempts during the regular season were also 3-pointers. Gohlke has hit 37% of those attempts from behind the arc.

A one-dimensional approach like that is exceedingly rare across college basketball, but it’s far from unprecedented at Oakland. Longtime coach Greg Kampe’s system demands a catch-and-shoot specialist with the confidence to fire away when given even an inch of space.

All 257 of Oakland sharpshooter Max Hooper’s shots came from behind the arc during the 2015-16 season. Most of Trevor Bader’s attempts were 3s as well during his illustrious Oakland career from 2010-14.

The way Kampe sees it, the presence of an elite shooter removes a defender from the floor and allows his offense almost to operate 4-on-4. If Gohlke’s man stays glued to him behind the 3-point arc, it creates more space for others to attack the rim off the dribble or score in the post. If Gohlke’s man helps elsewhere or lags behind chasing him off screens, he’s leaving a lethal 3-point shooter free.

That definitely helped Oakland throughout Thursday’s second half. Kentucky paid so much attention to Gohlke that Trey Townsend and DQ Cole were also able to get going.

In the second half, TV cameras panned to an exhausted Gohlke slamming cups of water and getting his legs massaged during timeouts.

He expended a ton of effort running around screens, but it was all worth it for the new face of this year’s March Madness.

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