Underwood: 'It was really ugly, and I love that'

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CHAMPAIGN — Jack Gohlke had a place of prominence on Illinois' scouting report heading into Friday night's game at State Farm Center.

The directive was pretty clear. Smother the Oakland guard defensively. Make every catch hard. Don't give him an inch.

Because that's about all Gohlke needs. The former Division II standout at Hillsdale College got up 18 three-pointers Monday night at Ohio State, made six of them and nearly led the Golden Grizzlies to an opening-night upset of the Buckeyes.

Gohlke found life considerably more difficult against Illinois.

Terrence Shannon Jr. shadowed the 6-foot-3 guard all night, put the clamps on him defensively and held him to just six points on 2-of-6 shooting.

All three-pointers, of course.

Few clean looks.

And it changed everything Oakland wanted to do.

The 25th-ranked Illini rode that defense to a 64-53 victory in front of a sellout State Farm Center crowd of 15,544 with 11 straight defensive stops late to pull away for the double-digit win against the Golden Grizzlies.

"I told (Gohlke) I was going to do that," Shannon said. "Then I did it. He's a really good player — props to him — and they've got a really good offensive scheme, but we did a good job guarding it and defending it during the week in practice."

Illinois coach Brad Underwood called Shannon's efforts on Gohlke one of the best defensive performances he's seen from a perimeter player. Gohlke rarely plays with the ball in his hands. That left the 6-foot-6 Shannon chasing all night, and he still never gave the Oakland guard an opening.

"It takes a lot of mental focus to handle that because he's away from the ball a lot," Underwood said. "Our whole key was to be there on the catch and force him to dribble. If he wanted to shoot one over the top of (Shannon), great."

Gohlke wasn't the only Oakland player frustrated into an inefficient night. Blake Lampman was 2 of 8 from three-point range and 3 of 11 from the field overall. And while Trey Townsend put up a game-high 19 points for the Golden Grizzlies, he had to take 18 shots.

"Wow, they can guard," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. "My God, they can guard. I thought you saw two really, really good defensive teams. I'm not going to try to tell you what to think, but I think we can really guard. We guard goofy. They just go guard you.

"Obviously, I don't have the size and athletes they do, so we junk it up a bit. We cause a lot of problems with that (zone). They took Gohlke and Lampman out of the game. They took them out of the game. Townsend could do some stuff, but it was hard."

That kind of defensive effort from Illinois (2-0) was a necessity Friday night. The Illini struggled offensively for the majority of the game, with only a late surge bumping up their overall efficiency to 47 percent shooting. But 25 percent three-point shooting and 50 percent free-throw shooting left a lot of scoring opportunities unrealized against Oakland (0-2).

"That's everything our program is about is finding a way to win a game when none of those things go your way," Underwood said. "It was really ugly, and I love that. You wish you'd made a few, but we didn't. You've got to find a way to win ugly games, and (Friday) we did that with an unbelievable defensive effort.

"It's a great preparation game. I'm happy that we won it really ugly. Guess what? I've won a couple NCAA tournament games shooting 30 percent. Sometimes, you just have to find a way. We have to figure out a way to have resilience and toughness and not let bad offense or lack of offense affect our defense. I thought we did that."

Kampe thought his team was able to exploit a few small weaknesses in Illinois' defense, but the Illini's size, athleticism and strength meant it wasn't sustainable during the course of a 40-minute game. At least not for his team, which had to change its game plan because of the challenges presented by the No. 25 team in the country.

"We want to play with pace," Kampe said. "We play them with pace, we're going to lose 100-60. ... We didn't get our fluid, run-in, transition threes. Their offense caused us to do that. We had to play to them, and it cost us some of the things we want to do."