Mercury Set Single-Game Scoring Record in Win
116 points most in WNBA history
By Ben York/@bjyork
Before the game started, Mercury starting center Tangela Smith was honored for being only the 4th player in WNBA history to notch 4,500 points and 2,000 rebounds. For as selfless and humble as Tangela is, you just knew it was going to be a good night for the Mercury. Well, that and the last time Phoenix played the Tulsa Shock they put up 110 points, just 5 short of the league record up to tonight.
With Nolan Richardson as the coach, he has the Shock playing his “40 Minutes of Hell” system quite well. Prior to the loss tonight, the Shock were a respectable 3-4 in an incredibly tough Western Conference. In a weird twist of fate, the Tulsa Shock and Phoenix Mercury go back to the late ‘80’s. In 1989, the NCAA Men’s Division I National Tournament featured the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Loyola-Marymount Lions in the Midwest Regional. Arkansas, at the time, was coached by Nolan Richardson and Loyola-Marymount was coached by Paul Westhead (former Mercury coach and mentor to Corey Gaines). Arkansas won 120-101.
In the first game that featured the Mercury and Shock this season (May 25th), there were multiple records set both individually and as a team. Diana Taurasi set a new record for most 3-pt FG’s made in a quarter (5), tied the record for most 3-pt FG’s in a half (6), and tied the WNBA for most 3-pt FG’s made in a game (8). The Mercury team set records for most points in a first half (58) and most 3-pt FG’s made (16).
Needless to say, when these two teams get together it is bound to be an exciting game. Tonight, was even better.
As expected, the tempo was incredibly fast right from the start. Diana Taurasi and Candice Dupree both hit their first 4 shots from the field combining for 19 of the Mercury’s 31 points in the 1st quarter. Phoenix had 10 assists on their first 12 shots (Penny Taylor had 5) and shot a blistering 54.5% from the field. Tulsa also came out hot shooting 60% in the quarter and hitting 3 shots from deep. The Mercury had four players in double-digit scoring in the first half (Taylor, Taurasi, Dupree, and Johnson). Penny Taylor had an amazing 12 points, 8 assists (tied career-high), and 3 rebounds in the first half while Candice Dupree had 14 points on 7/7 shooting. The team, as a whole, set the franchise record for most points in a half (59) breaking their previous record of 58 (also against Tulsa).
Phoenix stormed out of the gates at the start of the second half as well. They scored 10 points in just under 3 minutes and just kept pouring it on. The bench came in and continued the scoring output with Taylor Lilley scoring 11 points and hitting 3 three-pointers in the 3rd quarter alone. At one point, the fast-break points were in 18-0 in favor of the Mercury. The score was 88-66 after three and Phoenix would never look back.
Overall, the tempo of the game was very similar to the Mercury team we saw a year ago win the championship. Candice Dupree is healthy now and running the floor much better with her teammates. Phoenix leads the league in scoring even while not playing up to the level many think they can attain. Before the record-setting game tonight, they averaged just under 90 points per contest.
The 116-84 victory set single-season highs for the Mercury and was record-setting for the WNBA. Rather than continue with a lengthy narrative, let’s breakdown the win bullet-point style.
- All 11 players scored for the Mercury
- Phoenix’s 43 made FG’s is the most made all season
- The Mercury’s 54% FG’s is the highest all season for Phoenix
- Candice Dupree didn’t miss a shot; she was 9/9 and the only Mercury ever to go at least 8/8 from the field
- 116 points sets the record for most points scored in a WNBA game ever
- 29 assists (on 43 made shots) is the most of the season for the Mercury and tied a franchise record
- Ties season low in TO’s (9)
“Again, they’re running the basketball,” Nolan Richardson said after the game. “First of all, you have to be able to stop them and we really haven’t stopped anybody. So, it’s not such a bad matchup, it’s just that we’re not playing the kind of defense that we have to play in order to play teams of this nature. When you look at our basketball team, we have less than an expansion ball club.”
For the Mercury, the scoring wasn’t nearly as important as taking care of the ball. Tonight, they had a season-low in turnovers with just 9.
“Oh, the turnovers for sure,” Mercury coach Corey Gaines said after I asked what he was happier about, the 116 points or the few turnovers. “Forget the 116, the turnovers is what has really been killing us. Training camp is over. We are starting to gel together. It just took us time to figure out how to use Candice [Dupree] the right way. Everyone is starting to get in shape and we are starting to plant that flow where we are starting to get going.”
“We are only going to get better and we really feel that,” Mercury All-Star Diana Taurasi said after the game. “We’re getting a sense of how good we can be. But we don’t want to get complacent or be happy with winning two in a row. But on the other side, it feels good to go out there and see success.”
They’re 5-5, but the defending WNBA Champions just might be hitting their stride at the right time.
“The rough start to the season made us better,” Gaines said. “It made us a stronger team. I’d rather go through that at the beginning of the season than at the end.”