"Tonight I witnessed something that I hadn't really witnessed as a coach in college basketball."
- Nolan Richardson
Not only was that game something previously not witnessed by Richardson, it was a special game for all of the 4,100 spectators and ESPN2 television audience that had the opportunity to see Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The 'Taurasi and Taylor Show' - as I've decided to coin last night's three-point shooting clinic - tied a WNBA record, with the Mercury hitting 16-of-36 from beyond the arc. To further illustrate the three-point shooting gap between these two teams, the Tulsa Shock attempted that same number - 16 - that Taurasi and company made.
"I thought we pushed them out pretty deep. They still made them," Richardson said of the spectacle. "I've never seen a tape where they've shot the ball like that . . . if they shoot the ball like that every night, they they're gonna win almost every game. It's just as simple as that."
Taurasi joked after the game that if it tied the record and didn't break it then it "didn't count". But her 8-of-13 from three, including 6-of-7 in the first half, along with other scoring opportunities added up to 35 points for the Phoenix star. Numbers that indeed counted in the 110-96 game.
She was helped immensely by the other outside presence on the team in Penny Taylor. Taylor made 6-of-12 herself from beyond the arc, finishing with 29 points and seven assists.
"We're very - you know, we have our own style of run and gun sort of basketball, so we're still gelling in that sense, but it won't take us long. I feel like everyone's really focused," Taylor said of the defending-champion Mercury.
That focus was seen on the court and on the scoreboard in the up and down contest that saw a tie game at 80-80 before Phoenix took over in the final quarter of play. But even as the Sports Center highlights stay focused on (both) basketball teams from Phoenix, the Shock had a performance to be proud of.
"Oh you know, the basket was wide open like the ocean for them. They were hitting a lot of big threes. They were hitting a lot of threes," the Shock's Plenette Pierson said. "You know, they played a great game. They played their tempo, they played their style and did it to a T and I think we did well. We did well."
Pierson isn't the only one that thought Tulsa did well. The top three scorers for the Mercury - Taurasi, Taylor, and Candice Dupree - all spoke highly of the effort, determination and skill that Tulsa showed after being down by a 16-point deficit and battling back to lead before eventually being overcome by the rain of threes.
"I, you know, hadn't seen them play yet so they're a really good team. Very athletic team, very long, talented team. They gave a really good shot tonight," said Taylor. "Obviously, it's the start of the season, everyone's still gelling, they'll be really good."
And for Dupree, who's seen the other side of the coin - the side that flipped to L all too often in her early days in Chicago - she sees something in Tulsa that many do not.
"They're a good bunch of girls put together. They play very, very fast but they get the job done. They play that full-court press which you very seldom see from teams in the WNBA," Dupree remarked. "I wouldn't be surprised if they made the playoffs this year. They're a very good team."
Playoffs. A word that has - never? - been used about 1-3 Tulsa team in their infancy of their first season together. Color me shocked.