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Oakland Stuns Kentucky 80-76 in First Round of NCAA Tournament


Kentucky coach John Calipari and senior Tre Mitchell at a postgame press conference Thursday night after an upset loss to Oakland in a first round action of the NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Jamie H. Vaught)

By Jamie H. Vaught


PITTSBURGH -- It took a one little-known player from a little-known school in Michigan to beat the mighty Kentucky Wildcats in a first-round NCAA Tournament action Thursday night.


Starring for Oakland, rated No.126 according to NCAA's NET rankings (compared to UK's No. 18), was sixth-year senior Jack Gohlke, a backup guard who gunned in 10 of 20 three-pointers for a game-high 32 points to stun Kentucky 80-76.


"Oakland played a heck of a game," said a dejected UK coach John Calipari in a postgame press conference. "They made some unbelievable shots."


Said Golden Grizzlies coach Greg Kampe, "We just win close games. We've done it all year. We lost a very close one to Ohio State and a very close one to Illinois. We learned from those games. When we beat Xavier in a close game, we knew we were a special team, and we just have different ways to beat you, but our zone is -- man, it's good, and we defend. That's so much different for me. I've always been a coach that won games with offense, and this year it's all been defense, and great players making plays down the stretch. And we just win close games."


In a preseason poll, Oakland was picked to finish sixth in a 11-team Horizon Conference.


On Gohlke, who recently was named the conference's Sixth Player of the Year, Kentucky senior Antonio Reeves said, "He's a good shooter. He kept shooting the ball. He made some really tough shots down the stretch."


Reeves, by the way, led the Wildcats in scoring with 27 points on 11 of 18 shooting, including 5 of 9 three pointers. It was his 20th 20-point game of the season.


UK also had three players in double figures with senior Tre Mitchell getting 14 points, freshman Justin Edwards 10 and freshman Rob Dillingham 10.


Mitchell took the game's rebounding honors with 13 despite fouling out. Freshman Ugonna Onyenso blocked five shots.


Both teams shot evenly with Oakland hitting 41.3 percent and Kentucky 42.6 percent. The Golden Grizzlies, who were ahead for nearly 28 minutes, outrebounded UK 40-39.


UK freshman Reed Sheppard played 26 minutes but only had three points while leading the Cats with four assists.


"I've been in the ups and downs of this sport, but this one I'm really hurting for them," said Calipari of his talented players. "This team, I really felt, could have done so much more and our fans were here again. I just feel bad for our fans. Wish we would have played a little bit better. But this one hit me hard for them because again I just thought I had a team that could do some stuff."


UK finished its season with a 23-10 mark, while Oakland won its fifth straight game, improving its record to 24-11.


No. 14-seed Oakland will meet No. 11-seed North Carolina State in a second-round matchup Saturday.


Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime sports columnist in Kentucky, is the author of six books about UK basketball, including recently-published “Forever Crazy About The Cats: An Improbable Journey of a Kentucky Sportswriter Overcoming Adversity.” He is the editor and founder of KySportsStyle.com Magazine, and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via email at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.

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