Riquna Williams took some of the sting out of another disappointing season for the Tulsa Shock with a record-setting performance.
With the Shock playing for little more than pride after missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season, Williams broke the WNBA's scoring mark with 51 points to help Tulsa rout the San Antonio Silver Stars 98-65 on Sunday.
"The people paid their money," Williams said. "We're professionals, we have to go out every night and play our hearts out. This isn't college anymore; we're paid to do this. That's our return to them, playing our hearts out . well, for me I play my heart out every night."
But it was a night unlike any other for Williams, or any other player in the league's 17-year history.
The second-year guard out of Miami surpassed the previous record of 47 points set by Phoenix's Diana Taurasi against Houston on Aug. 10, 2006, and matched by Seattle's Lauren Jackson against Washington on July 24, 2007.
Williams' performance astounded her teammates, who asked her to autograph final boxes for them before posing for a group photo.
"That was an amazing performance," Shock rookie guard Skylar Diggins said. "It was just so great being on the court with her. Once she got started, when she got to 20, then she got to 25, 28, I said, 'Make it 40. Get 40.' And she just looked at me, and then she got 40. We were like, 'oh my gosh, she might get 50.'
"She just got it through the natural flow of the offense. We weren't isolating her or anything. She had the hot hand and was catching it on swings and she was just making plays."
Even after adding Diggins with the third overall pick to a developing roster, the Shock (11-21) are tied with the injury-depleted Silver Stars for fifth place in the Western Conference with two games remaining.
Williams gave Tulsa a needed boost after losing three of previous four games.
"It was a good team effort and a spectacular individual effort by Riquna Williams," Tulsa coach Gary Kloppenburg said.
Williams' 51 points was the most scored at the AT&T Center, which is also home to the NBA's San Antonio Spurs.
"It's amazing, I'm still speechless," Williams said. "It feels great. This is only my second year in the league, so to capture that at such a young age and such a young player, it's amazing. And I shot it pretty well; it wasn't a bad shooting night."
Williams, who came into the game averaging 14.4 points, was 17 for 28 from the field and hit eight 3-pointers. The 23-year-old had 20 points in the third quarter after scoring 16 in the first half.
"She can flat out shoot the ball," said San Antonio's Shenise Johnson, Williams' teammate at Miami. "She had that LeBron (James) look, that Kobe (Bryant) look in her eye. Everybody moved out of the way and was out there getting it done."
With Williams approaching the record, fans were cheering for her to get the ball in the final minutes of the game on every possession. She tied the mark with a layup with 1:22 left in the game and then broke it with jumper 24 seconds later.
Williams added two emotional free throws with 5 seconds left for her final points after colliding knee-to-knee with Chelsea Poppins. The fans' reaction was almost too much for Williams, a native of Pahokee, Fla., whose population of less than 6,000 was surpassed by the 6,650 in attendance.
"I kind of got a little teary (due to the fans' cheering) even after taking the hit, so it was a combination," she said. "I was able to hide it a little. But it's great. I'm a small-town kid; this is my dream come true. I never thought I would be at this point."
The 5-foot-5 Williams had 16 points in the first half, continually rising high above taller defenders for 3s and long jumpers. She hit a 21-foot jumper over Jia Perkins before draining a 3 to pull Tulsa within 33-25 with 6 minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Perkins scored 21 points to lead San Antonio (11-21) and Johnson added 18.
Diggins added 20 points and Tiffany Jackson-Jones had 10 for Tulsa.
Tulsa took control in the second half outscoring San Antonio 59-22. Williams had 35 herself in the final 20 minutes.
"We didn't show heart, we didn't show pride," Johnson said. "We didn't represent what was on the front of our jerseys. Honestly, we're all embarrassed."
Williams, who scored 2,148 points at Miami, went 5 for 7 on 3s in the third quarter. Williams had a look of bemusement after soaring over the 6-foot-2 Shameka Christon for a 3 with 1.9 seconds left in the third, giving the Shock a 71-58 lead.
Williams hit consecutive 3s to give Tulsa a 59-54 lead.
"In a zone, don't think," Williams said. "When I think, I miss."