Oakland downs Kentucky to advance to second round of NCAA Tournament

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“We just beat Kentucky.”

Not only were Golden Grizzly fans everywhere saying this in disbelief, but Trey Townsend muttered the same sentence on his way out of the locker room. On a night that was expected to belong to one of the nations blue blood programs, the Oakland Golden Grizzlies stole the spotlight, seizing an 80-76 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

It was a night that few knew were possible, but it was the right few.

“We’re not a Cinderella,” said Jack Gohlke on the CBS postgame.

It is that confidence that propelled Gohlke to a performance of a lifetime. He made 10 threes en route to 32 points, while also capturing the hearts of people everywhere.

“I missed my first two,” said Gohlke on ScportCenter with Scott Van Pelt last night. “But that wasn’t going to stop me from firing.”

The night belonged to Gohlke, but there were plenty of other heroes up and down the roster.

Trey Townsend continued his dominant season against the biggest and the baddest. He tallied 17 points and 12 rebounds, including a fade away over a triple team in the clutch. In a game that was supposed to be a prove it moment for the Wildcat front court, Oakland, led by Townsend, outrebounded the Cats.

Chris Conway added eight points with four boards and three assists, while Buru Naivalurua had dominant stretches on the glass. 

Oakland knew coming into the year they had an advantage in the post most nights, but the point guard duties were a question mark,

In this game, it provided the exclamation point.

With time winding down and a one point lead, Rocket Watts had the ball, shaking and baking. He drove into a double team, and made a pass to his fellow quasi-point guard DQ Cole in the corner. 

Swish.

Cole was 3-3 from three for 12 points, while also pulling down 8 rebounds. He and Watts also tied for the team lead with 4 assists, along with Townsend. 

Watts’ began his career at Michigan State, with that first game against Kentucky. He was proud of how his career has come to this point.

“I never thought this was how everything would go, but we just love each other man”” Watts said postgame.

Gohlke’s message of not being a Cinderella will be put to the test on Saturday, as Oakland will now look ahead to the round of 32, against NC State.

The Wolfpack beat Texas Tech after Oakland’s win to advance to the second round. It guaranteed a double digit seed will make the sweet 16 out of Pittsburgh, with NC State seeded 11th and Oakland seeded 14th.

NC State is led by a couple of DJs, DJ Burns and DJ Horne. Horne is the leading scorer while Burns is a massive presence in the post, and will challenge Gohlke for the fan favorite in the arena. 

One other interesting note about this matchup revolves around NC State player Mo Diarra. Diarra is a Garden City CC player who was teammates with Naivalurua, Tone Hunter and Aundre Polk of the Golden Grizzlies. He was also coached by Oakland assistant coach Bobby Naubert, and almost went to Oakland before committing to Missouri last year. He leads the Wolfpack in rebounding.and blocks.

Thursday night was the second NCAA Tournament win in Oakland program history, following the 2005 opening roound win over Alabama A&M, but this is the first appearance in the second round for the school. It is also the first showing in the second round for the Horizon League since Butler made the national championship game in 2011.

It was a dream night, and a program changing win Thursday night for Oakland, but the guys in the locker room know this story may have a few more chapters to write.

Oakland will tip off against NC State in the round of 32 on Saturday night, with the tip scheduled for 7:10pm on TBS.

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