I may be in the minority here, but when I come to Portland, Oregon, I want it to rain.
I've seen it both ways, and the Rose City is breathtakingly gorgeous when it's sunny, too. The skies turn a crisp shade of clean, bright blue. The hills around the city shine a brilliant jade green even in the heart of winter, and off in the distance to the east, capped in snow and glory, stands Mount Hood.
The concept of it always raining here is actually untrue. Climate data for Portland shows, on average, it rains here 155 days each year. Compare that to somewhere else like Chicago, where there are 123 days with precipitation each year. While that is an extra month of rain here in Portland, it does bring some perspective to the stereotype. Numbers aside, the rest of the country imagines Portland being rainy. Like the tourist I am, I want it to be just as I imagine it.
Portland granted my wish as I walked in a steady, cold rain through the southern edge of downtown and onto the campus of Portland State. I passed the library, a beautifully designed five-story glass semicircle, and could see every cubicle along those walls filled with students nose-deep in studies. Portland has a reputation of being a city of readers, and if that isn't made by being the home of Powell's (the best bookstore I've ever seen), it was on display here at PSU. Of course, I wondered if everyone spends more time inside reading at the bookstores and libraries and coffee shops simply because they're dodging raindrops.
My respite from the rain came a few more steps away inside the Peter W. Stott Center, and no books were involved. Tonight marked the end of the conference season for both Northern Colorado and Portland State, but their futures were starkly different. All around the Stott Center were reminders of the Vikings' next game, hosting a Big Sky Tournament quarterfinal against Montana State on Saturday. For Northern Colorado, who finished seventh in a conference which only takes the top six into their tournament, there would be no next game. This was the end. Predictably, that meant the Bears would come out firing. As a wise old bard said "When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose." Thanks to seven early points from "Great" Tate Unruh and a couple #superhoops from his fellow Missourian, Tim Huskisson, Northern Colorado opened up with a 19-12 lead.
Portland State responded by attacking the interior and drawing fouls on Northern Colorado's bigs. Eight of PSU's 14 points in a 14-4 "run" came from the free throw line. A three from senior Charles Odum at 5:40 gave Portland State the 24-23 lead, their first of the game.
What followed after this was the best back and forth game I've seen this season. Portland State wanted to defend their home court and justify their 3 seed in the Big Sky. For Northern Colorado, it was all about pride, and avoiding the loss, even though it would not prevent their season from ending at the final buzzer.
The second half saw Northern Colorado pushing ahead to a six-point lead from back-to-back Unruh threes, but quickly evaporating from the play of Charles Odom, who drilled a three of his own, then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and quickly converted a layup. The rest of the half saw this cat-and-mouse continue, with each team sneaking out to a three- or four-point lead only to see it just as quickly turn into a similar deficit.
The hustle from both teams picked up as the clock wound down. Even I became part of the action when Portland State's Lateef McMullan chased a loose ball and dove into the stands right in front of me, and I had to catch him to keep him from tumbling over as he ran up the bleachers. After McMullan made his way toward his bench, I noticed my shirt, which had just dried out from the rain, was now drenched in sweat.
The intensity on the court continued, and with 37 seconds left, Northern Colorado's Tevin Svihovec drove and scored to put the Bears up 74-71. Portland State's response came in the form of Charles Odom, as it had for most of the game. However, his teardrop runner with 27 seconds left came up short, and Northern Colorado corralled the rebound. A quick foul sent Svihovec to the line with the one-and-one to wrap up the win from the line.
I've always marveled at how the one-and-one is a simple, but amazingly significant rule. Fates have been changed by the fact a player really only gets one chance to score two points at the line. Make, and you're wrapping up a win. Miss, and you've scored nothing and no time has been lost.
It came up a miss for Svihovec, and Portland State had life. Once again, Odom took charge of the Viking offense, and fired a potentially game-tying three. It missed, but senior Chehales Tapscott, leading the Big Sky in rebounds, fought for and got the rebound, and another after his tip-in attempt didn't drop. His second tip-in did go through, and the Northern Colorado lead was now just one.
Northern Colorado quickly inbounded, and Svihovec was again fouled and went to the line for another one-and-one.
Again, I've always marveled at how the one-and-one is a simple, but amazingly significant rule. Fates have been changed by the fact a player really only gets one chance to score two points at the line. Make and you're wrapping up a win. Miss, you've scored nothing and no time has been lost.
I'm a firm believer in the idea of things happening for a reason. But what happened next boggles me as to why this would go as it did.
Svihovec's front end clanked out to the right. Portland State now had the ball and a chance to win with ten seconds left.
Again, the call was for Odom to create, and he made his drive to the basket with five seconds left. He pulled up and lofted a shot with three seconds left, which missed badly, but the referee had called a foul on Northern Colorado's Connor Osbourne. Odom stepped to the line and calmly sank both free throws, and Portland State had changed the lead for the 16th and final time.
The inbounds pass went to Svihovec again, and his desperation shot from just past half-court missed long and to the left (it's always to the left), and Portland State escaped with the 75-74 win.
Both teams took a little longer than usual to leave the court. Portland State celebrated their come-from-behind win and now await the postseason. Meanwhile, Northern Colorado slowly, but confidently, walked off the court and into the end.
at PORTLAND STATE 75, NORTHERN COLORADO 74 02/28/2012
NORTHERN COLORADO 9-19 (5-11) -- T. Svihovec 5-13 0-2 10; T. Unruh 8-13 0-0 20; M. Proctor 6-12 0-0 12; C. Osborne 5-10 0-0 10; T. Huskisson 2-5 0-2 6; P. Garnica 2-5 0-0 5; E. Addo 5-7 1-2 11; X. James 0-0 0-0 0; B. Keane 0-0 0-0 0; B. Douvier 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 33-65 1-6 74. PORTLAND STATE 16-13 (10-6) -- C. Tapscott 4-11 4-6 12; C. Odum 4-11 11-16 22; L. McMullan 3-9 0-0 7; M. Harthun 5-6 0-0 14; R. Parker 4-8 2-5 10; N. Lozeau 2-3 0-0 4; G. Winston 0-1 0-0 0; M. Whitmore 1-2 3-3 6. Totals 23-51 20-30 75.
Three-point goals: NOCO 7-21 (E. Addo 0-1; T. Unruh 4-8; C. Osborne 0-1; P. Garnica 1-3; T. Svihovec 0-4; T. Huskisson 2-4), POST 9-22 (M. Harthun 4-5; L. McMullan 1-5; C. Odum 3-8; C. Tapscott 0-2; M. Whitmore 1-2); Rebounds: NOCO 29 (M. Proctor 8), POST 31 (C. Tapscott 8); Assists: NOCO 14 (T. Huskisson 5), POST 16 (C. Odum 4); Total Fouls -- NOCO 17, POST 14; Fouled Out: NOCO-None; POST-None.