Published September 10, 2013
Riquna Williams was still in awe a day after breaking the WNBA scoring record with a spectacular 51-point performance.
Tulsa's second-year guard became an overnight sensation after her historic effort against San Antonio. She had to shut off her phone after getting countless texts and voice mails just so she could get some sleep.
"It's truly been amazing," she said. "I couldn't even imagine the impact it's had."
Williams surpassed the record of 47 points that Phoenix's Diana Taurasi set against Houston on Aug. 10, 2006, and Seattle's Lauren Jackson matched against Washington on July 24, 2007.
"To see that list and my name at the top is unbelievable," Williams said. "I'm just a small-town kid living out my dream."
It wasn't her best scoring effort ever though. That came in high school when she scored 55 points against a rival school. Amazingly she did that in just three quarters, without hitting any 3-pointers, as coach Anthony Whitfield benched her for the first period for disciplinary reasons. It just so happened that her future college coach, Miami's Katie Meier, was in the stands for the game.
"I saw the potential in her and knew she would be special," Whitfield said. "I tried to do things to get her ready for anything she would come across. One day I made her mad in practice and she stormed off saying she'd quit. She came back and talked about it and apologized to the team."
It wasn't Williams' only disciplinary problem. She was suspended by Meier for the NCAA tournament her senior year for conduct detrimental to the team. That cost her spots in the WNBA draft as she fell to Tulsa in the second round in 2012. She's learned from her mistakes and has been a model player in Tulsa.
"No one really knows the story," Williams said. "Everybody wants to know. Sometimes it's good to let it go. I messed up in college. I was young, I've learned from it and now I'm here. I've matured from it."
Meier was one of the first to text her former star after the game. She turned the game on in the third quarter as Williams was in the midst of a 20-point burst in the period.
"I was talking to our inner circle of coaches who worked with her and nobody was that surprised," Meier said. "There were so many practices where we'd have 20-minute scrimmages and she'd have 32 points. She'd have that look. I saw the look yesterday. It was amazing."
Williams admitted she had no idea she was approaching any kind of record while she was playing.
"No one knew the record, but Glory (Johnson) was the first to say 'Bay, 45'. I was like, 'Huh?' She was like, 'You can get 45 points.' I look up at the scoreboard and I had 39."
With Williams near the milestone, San Antonio 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 and then broke it with jumper 24 seconds later.
Williams added two emotional free throws with 5 seconds to go 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.
"Those were the two hardest points of the night," she said. "I had to relax when I got to the line as I got a little teary with the fans' reaction. Those two free throws were the most important points of my career."
Taurasi was happy to hear about Williams' performance.
"I haven't seen any highlights, after the game we were on the bus and it was on the WNBA feed, that's unbelievable," Taurasi said at the league's annual inspirational luncheon on Monday. "Talk about a kid who can score at will. She could have had a lot more. We've played her and you look up and she's got 27 points in 15 minutes. Fifty-one is a big number. I can't wait to see it."
Williams, who came into the game averaging 14.4 points, was 17 for 28 from the field and hit eight 3-pointers.
Whitfield wasn't surprised at his former star's success.
"I told her draft day she'd make history," he said. "She's only going to get better."
He joked with her two weeks before her 51-point effort that he had scored 35 points in a recreational league he was playing in and she should try and top it.
Did she ever.
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