Riquna Williams scored 51 points against the San Antonio Silver Stars on Sunday, breaking the WNBA record for most points scored by a player in one game. The record was previously held jointly by Diana Taurasi and Lauren Jackson who scored 47 points in their record-setting and tying performances.
It took some digging, but here is the box score from Taurasi’s record setting game. Her 47 points came in 44 minutes -- 10 minutes longer than it took Williams to break the scoring record. Taurasi did it in a win against the defunct Houston Comets who boasted WNBA superstar Tina Thompson at the time which makes Taurasi’s performance all the more impressive.
She fouled out of the game (Taurasi foul out? Perish the thought!), preventing her from taking part in all three of the overtime periods. If she had the opportunity to play 50 minutes, perhaps we would be talking about Williams’ regulation record instead of the overall record.
Taurasi made 17 shots from the field, just like Williams. Taurasi made eight 3-pointers, just like Williams. The only area where Williams had the edge was in free throws -- Taurasi made five of her seven free throws while Williams made all nine of her shots from the charity stripe.
So it all came down to free throws, huh? Now let’s take a look at how Jackson reached the 47 point mark.
Jackson’s record-tying game came in 2007 in a loss to the Washington Mystics. This contest also went to overtime, but unlike the Phoenix/Houston game it only took one overtime frame for the Mystics to win it. Jackson played 42 of the 45 minutes, eight minutes longer than Williams played and two minutes fewer than Taurasi.
Her game, unsurprisingly, relied less on the 3-point shot and more on free throws. Jackson made 18 shots from the field, but only two of them were 3-pointers. She shot 9-11 from the free throw line, which made up the distance between her field shooting and Taurasi’s.
Both Taurasi and Jackson are hall of fame caliber WNBA players, so these performances aren’t exactly shocking. They are incredible, no doubt, but you kind of expect Taurasi and Jackson to put their names in the record books, right?
Williams isn’t Jackson, and she sure as heck isn’t Taurasi. That isn’t a knock on Williams -- they are two of the greatest players in the game. On any given Sunday, anything is possible is how the saying goes, right? Well, Williams certainly had a Sunday unlike any day before it. Some perspective:
On Sunday, Williams score 51 points. Her career average is 14.
On Sunday, Williams made 17 field goals. Her career average is four.
On Sunday, Williams made eight 3-pointers. Her career average is 1.3.
On Sunday, Williams made her seventh start in her fifty-eighth game in the WNBA.
On Sunday, Williams wrote her name in the WNBA record book.
In her second year as a professional out of the University of Miami, Williams torched a Silver Stars defense that is the third worst in the WNBA -- and probably worse now that the Phoenix Mercury are playing competent defense. San Antonio is giving up an average of 76 points a game -- Williams scored 67 percent of that average all by herself.
Of course the Silver Stars are missing their top three players and even one of their better bench players. That doesn’t take anything away from Williams’ achievement, but it gives some context to her record.
When Taurasi picked up the mantle against Houston, she was doing it against the fifth-best defense in the league. The Comets allowed an average of 72 points a game, while Phoenix was the biggest defensive sieve in the league (sounds familiar) as they allowed 84 points a game.
In 2007, Jackson dominated the fifth-worst defense in the league; the Mystics allowed an average of 77 points per game -- a number much closer to what the Silver Stars are giving up a game.
What now for Williams? She has made a name for herself in the league now, and everyone will be waiting for her follow-up performance, right? Was it just lightning in a bottle or is this the breakout moment "bay bay" has been hoping for?
Those questions will be answered soon enough; for now, Williams can enjoy her accomplishment. She’ll be back in action against the Seattle Storm on Thursday in Tulsa, where I’m sure she will get a warm ovation.