The Highlands of Scotland is an historic region, and somewhat logical when you look at Scotland on a map. It's the north part of the country, and who would call the southern portion of the country the highlands? (Well, aside from most of the Southern United States, who consider the South to be its own entity. Or if the lower/southern portion of the country were at a higher altitude, but that's getting away from the point).
It is an area that is distinguished by the residents still speaking some dialect of Gaelic, and is sparsely populated, having many mountain ranges, including Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, dominate the region.
In addition, the 18th century saw three things -- the outlawing of the traditional Highland way of life following the Jacobite Rising of 1745, the infamous Highland Clearances, and mass migration to urban areas during the Industrial Revolution -- develop and aid to the initial wiping out of a the area's population.
The other thing the Scottish Highlands have given to the world? A movie, TV series and book series. The movie was 1986's Highlander, which later spawned the TV series, which begat the book series.
All three revolve around the premise that there are immortals roaming the planet and they try to knock each other off. The tagline for the series: There can be only one.
The UC-Riverside Highlanders hadn't played outside of their home state since Nov. 18, a 53-49 loss at Youngstown State in Youngstown, Ohio. In seven previous games, they'd lost by four to YSU and four to Boston College in overtime. They'd also won by one over Washington State. So UCR was in its share of close games before coming to Bozeman on a wintery (temperature-wise) afternoon with a quick turnaround to go back home for a Wednesday game.
Jim Wooldridge's team came into the game not undisciplined, but with what you might call a hacking problem. UCR, in its first seven games, committed 117 fouls and had four foulouts on the young season. Opponents were shooting 75% (87-of-116) from the line against them. MSU was shooting 68% (98-of-144) from the line, but 52-of-71 (73%) on its three-game homestand, with the UCR game ending it.
Which is how the Bobcats found themselves back in the contest. MSU led 2-0, but then didn't have an advantage until Xavier Blount hit a #superhoop for a 56-55 lead. In between, the Bobcats clawed their way back in (*cough* cliché *cough*) from the line, hitting 23 free throws in 17 minutes of game time to stay in the contest. MSU made 40 free throws in the contest, a team record, 10 of which kept the Bobcats ahead until the last five seconds of the game.
Robert Smith is a 5-foot-11 guard from Perris, Calif. He was a decorated player in high school, relatively, and earned a scholarship to the University of Santa Clara. He was named to the West Coast Conference all-freshman team two years ago as a member of the Broncos, but left the team midway through last season. Smith was playing in his first game for Riverside after sitting out due to transfer rules, and debuted wearing not only a brand-new jersey -- the entire team was sporting new uniforms -- but wearing No. 1.
Smith scored 14 points in the game, not the highest output for his club. However, his final basket proved to be the game's most important. His team, as noted, had been "dying a slow death," as Jim Wooldridge later said, as MSU went to the line possession after possession. Unlike other sporadic times throughout the season, the Bobcats were hitting their foul shots this time around, especially towards the end of the game.
Forty-eight combined fouls were assessed after Mohammed Fall sank two from the stripe to keep MSU's edge at four points, 73-69, with 13 seconds to go. During UCR's possession, Kevin Bradshaw hit his only basket of the day on a layup and was inexplicably fouled.
With five seconds left, Bradshaw stepped to the line, shot and missed his free throw. But the story doesn't end there. A whistle blew and the home team -- to the dismay of 90 percent of the arena -- was called for stepping into the lane before Bradshaw released his shot. So we had a do-over -- and Bradshaw missed again.
This time, Smith ran in from the top of the key, rose up unguarded and corralled the rebound. He quickly ran to the right wing, turned after he got behind the 3-point line and launched a high-arcing #superhoop attempt. It went through with 0:00.3 left on the clock, and Smith let out an upset-sized roar as his teammates on the floor all mobbed him.
For the record, MSU threw the ball out of bounds and UCR added a free throw to end the game. But there was no doubt as a stunned home crowd walked out into the evening night that Smith was the big winner. First basketball game since last December; first game for a new team and a number which people deride -- "You have what number? What, you think your special?"
(ENTER TIRED, YET COMICAL SPORTS CLICHÉ AGAIN)
For one afternoon, Smith made it count. Because, as legend tells us, there can be only one.
CALIFORNIA-RIVERSIDE 75, at MONTANA STATE 73 12/11/2011
CALIFORNIA-RIVERSIDE 3-5 (0-0) -- P. Martin 8-19 6-8 25; K. Nitoto 3-11 5-5 12; R. Smith 5-10 2-2 14; D. Chavarria 1-5 2-4 4; K. Bradshaw 1-3 2-3 4; H. Gaines 3-7 0-0 8; B. Shearry 2-7 0-0 4; T. Burke 1-3 0-0 2; A. Quick 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 25-67 17-22 75. MONTANA STATE 5-4 (0-0) -- J. Allou 2-3 2-4 6; T. Johnson 2-7 3-4 7; X. Blount 4-9 11-13 21; J. Stewart 1-7 8-10 10; R. Singleton 1-4 3-6 5; M. Fall 2-6 9-10 13; C. Moon 2-7 1-2 5; M. Dison 1-1 0-0 3; S. Reid 0-2 3-3 3. Totals 15-46 40-52 73.
Three-point goals: UCR 8-15 (H. Gaines 2-4; K. Nitoto 1-3; R. Smith 2-4; P. Martin 3-3; A. Quick 0-1), MTST 3-13 (S. Reid 0-1; R. Singleton 0-1; J. Stewart 0-3; C. Moon 0-3; M. Dison 1-1; X. Blount 2-4); Rebounds: UCR 34 (P. Martin 10), MTST 33 (T. Johnson 7); Assists: UCR 8 (K. Nitoto 4), MTST 6 (R. Singleton 2); Total Fouls -- UCR 29, MTST 21; Fouled Out: UCR-H. Gaines; MTST-T. Johnson.