Riquna Racks Up a Record
Banged up and battling injuries, the Tulsa Shock's Riquna Williams made history on Sunday going off for 51 points and setting the WNBA record for most points in a single game.
"I was holding back tears," Williams said recalling the moment she hit the mark. "I banged up my knee on the play before, so it was a combination of me crying from pain and me crying thinking 'I just scored 51 points.' And to have all my teammates come hug me, it made me extra weak when they were telling me that I just did the unthinkable."
Williams' 51 points in the 98-65 win against the San Antonio Silver Stars surpasses the 47-point milestone Diana Taurasi and Lauren Jackson reached in previous seasons. Williams painted a picture of how the game went down, starting with all the frustration in the locker room going into the matchup. After being eliminated from playoff contention and battling all sorts of injuries on the roster, Williams said the Shock were focused on staying motivated.
"We just talked about how beat down our team had been despite not making the playoffs but we're still going out and fighting every night like we're playing for a national championship," she said.
"My Achilles was sore, but when I found out [about Candice], I said 'I guess I can't sit out," Williams said. "It was the same thing - just go out and play hard and play with pride."
Shock coach Gary Kloppenburg said the team really took notice to how explosive Williams was in the game's third quarter.
"She just started to heat up," he said. "The rim looked like the Grand Canyon to her, taking all these good shots, getting to the rim and getting to the line. Her three point shots were going down from deep too."
Williams 51 points came from 17-28 shooting from field-goal range, eight three-pointers and a pristine 9-9 on free-throws.
"Even if I missed, the shots felt great," Williams said. "I wasn't thinking about anything else, I was just playing. I was just going out there and having fun which is what my Mom always taught me to do."
Williams had close to 40 points by the end of the third quarter. When the team realized Williams was within striking distance of breaking the scoring record, a debate ensued on keeping her in versus resting the banged up guard.
"Honestly, the coaches wanted to take me out," Williams said. "But the team overruled it and said 'No, leave her in. We don't have anything to play for, no playoffs or anything, so let her chase this WNBA record.'"
Kloppenburg said like any coach, it's always a delicate balance to maintain a player's health versus nurturing their hot streak. But ultimately he decided to keep her in.
"She was banged up, but once her adrenaline kicked in, she forgot about all those aches and pains and kept going," he said. "We we decided let's just leave her out there and let her go after that scoring record.'"
Williams said teammates like Roneeka Hodges and Candice Wiggins kept her motivated to keep on trucking in the game and capture that record.
"Candice was telling me "I have no idea what you're doing right now," Williams said with a laugh. "I have no idea where your head is, but stay there.'"
After the game, the team posed for a photo that immediately went viral where Williams held a piece of paper with "51" written on it. Williams said teammate Courtney Paris came up with the idea as a historical head-nod to the similar photo of Wilt Chamberlain after his historic 100-point game.
"My teammates, my family, my friends, kept saying affter the game that they knew I had it in me," Williams said. "It was just a matter of time."
"But had I thought that?" she added. "No, I never thought I'd be able to go for 51 points in a single game. Honestly, I'm tired. I've been dealing with injuries. I've had two concussions this year, sat out with my Achilles for several games so its been rough for me."
Williams has come off the bench for the Shock for most of the season because Kloppenburg liked how effective she was in a 6th man role. Giving her more minutes and letting her loose like he did on Sunday, Kloppenburg said, helped showcase Williams' true potential.
"We knew she was a scorer and capable for going for 30 points at any time," he said. "This game shows how good she can be on any given night."
For a team that didn't make the playoffs, the Tulsa Shock have had one heck of a season with most of their losses coming to down-to-the-wire moments including last month's nail-biting double overtime loss to the Los Angeles Sparks. Williams said Sunday's game has kept the team motivated to not only finish the year strong but bounce back even stronger next season.
"Everyone here says we're missing one piece," Williams said. "We're not sure what that one piece is, but I think once we find it, we're going to give teams way more trouble and those double overtime losses will go from losses to wins."
Kloppenburg agreed. Other young players on the team like Glory Johnson and Liz Cambage are slowly finding their groove too and it's only a matter of time before the squad gets over the hump and makes it to the playoffs, he said.
"We're still a growing team," he said. "Every game for us, even though we're out of the playoffs, is an opportunity to grow their confidence and develop them. Once things click in, we have the chance to be a pretty good team."
For now, Williams said she's not only focused on getting through the rest of the season, but getting through today. She said she's nervous with all the attention she's getting today including a scheduled appearance on ESPN SportsCenter.
"Had I known I had to wake up and deal with all this, its crazy," she said with another laugh. "I'm terrified for all the media and all the attention."
So far, she's done all right.