Jack Taylor misfired on his first four shots of the night. And doubts crept into the sophomore guard’s mind. Would the cold shooting that had plagued him during a weekend tournament now carry over into the Nov. 21 game against Faith Baptist Bible College? Was it time to pass first, shoot second?
But Taylor found his shooting stroke—and then some—scoring 138 points to lead Grinnell College to a 179-104 victory. The offensive eruption set a single-game collegiate record—shattering the old mark of 113 points by Clarence “Bevo” Francis of Rio Grande College of Ohio in 1954.
Taylor’s eye-popping total, which included 27 made 3-pointers, sparked an international media frenzy at the small Iowa college, but not all the press was positive: Some wondered whether a performance that required 108 shot attempts was truly worth celebrating. Taylor finished the game without a single assist, not one pass to provide teammates a scoring opportunity.
Of the major team sports, only basketball mires its greatest single-player performances in questions about selfishness. Rarely is a home run slugger or quarterback dubbed a ball hog for lighting up the scoreboard. But on the hardwood, just who will take the shot on any given possession is a delicate decision that weighs talent, rhythm, and opportunity.
That balance is admittedly upset in Grinnell coach David Arseneault’s high-speed offense, which relies on a shoot-first culture and features substitution patterns akin to hockey line changes. Players become somewhat interchangeable and feeding the hot hand becomes paramount. In 2011, Grinnell’s Griffin Lentsch set an NCAA Division III single-game scoring record with 89 points. He scored just seven points on Taylor’s record-setting night. Still, debates loom over whether an outlandish point total for a single player constitutes good basketball.
Here’s a look at some of the other highest single-game scoring outbursts in the history of the game:
February 2, 1954: Clarence “Bevo” Francis needed just 70 shots to pile up 113 points in Rio Grande College’s 134-91 victory over Hillsdale College.
February 13, 1954: Less than two weeks after Francis set his mark, Furman University guard Frank Selvy became the first Division I college player to reach triple digits when he dropped 100 points in a 149-95 victory over Newberry College. Selvy made 41 of his 66 shots.
March 2, 1962: Wilt Chamberlain became the only NBA player to score 100 points in a single game. He needed only 63 shots to do it but also went to the foul line 32 times and grabbed 25 rebounds. Chamberlain’s Philadelphia Warriors beat the New York Knicks that night 169-147, and the center averaged more than 50 points per game that year.
February 7, 1990: Before going on to win four Olympic gold medals and two WNBA titles, Lisa Leslie turned in what may be the most dominant performance ever in an organized basketball game. As a junior at Morningside High School in Inglewood, Calif., she scored 101 points in the first half against South High School. She was well on her way to eclipsing Cheryl Miller’s national record of 107 points in a girls’ high-school game, but the South High School team refused to return to the floor after halftime, leaving the final score 102-24.
April 5, 2006: Anat Draigor, a mother who was then 46 years old, scored 136 points in a Division III game in Israel, recognized by Guinness World Records as the highest single-game total ever in women’s professional basketball. She led Hapoel Mate Yehuda to a 158-41 victory over Elitzur Givat Shmuel.