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Caitlin Clark: Iowa Hawkeye breaks NCAA scoring record

IOWA CITY –

Caitlin Clark broke the NCAA women’s career scoring record, making a 3-pointer from about 35 feet in the first quarter for No. 4 Iowa against Michigan on Thursday night.

Clark went into the game needing eight points to pass Kelsey Plum’s total of 3,527.

She wasted no time, making her first three shots — a layup and two 3s — and scoring Iowa’s first eight points. The record-breaker was a 3-pointer off the dribble on the left wing near the Mediacom Court logo with 7:45 left in the first quarter.

Iowa won the tip and Clark, guarded by Laila Phelia, drove to the basket and banked in a shot from the right side. Clark hit a 3 from the left wing on Iowa’s next possession. The Hawkeyes turned the ball over twice before Clark took a pass from Gabbie Marshall in transition, stopped and and shot from deep on the left side.

When the ball went through, the fans — many of them standing and holding up phones to capture the moment — let loose a huge roar.

After Clark’s 3, Phelia missed a layup, for Michigan and Iowa’s Molly Davis rebounded. Iowa coach Lisa Bluder called timeout and a celebration ensued. Clark hugged teammates, Bluder and staffers, and the record was acknowledged while delighted fans continued to scream.

Plum scored 57 points on the night she broke the scoring record in 2017, and Clark played as if she had that on her mind. She had 23 points in the first quarter, making five of her first seven 3-pointers and 8 of 10 shots overall.

Plum set the previous NCAA record in 2017 as a senior at Washington. Clark’s next target is the all-time major women’s college scoring record of 3,649 points by Kansas star Lynette Woodard from 1977-81. During Woodard’s era, women’s sports were governed by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. Pearl Moore of Francis Marion holds the overall women’s record with 4,061 points from 1975-79.

Iowa has four regular-season games left, plus the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. Barring injury, Clark, a senior who averages 32.1 points-per-game, is all but certain to pass Woodard. And she has the option to return for a fifth season of college basketball because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clark and her dynamic game have captivated the nation for two seasons. Last year, she led the Hawkeyes to the NCAA title game and was named AP player of the year. More than just her pursuit of the record, her long 3-pointers and flashy passes have raised interest in the women’s game to unprecedented levels. Arenas have been sold out for her games, home and away, and television ratings have never been higher.

It’s all been more than Clark imagined when the six-foot guard from West Des Moines stayed in state and picked Iowa over Notre Dame in November 2019.

“I dreamed of doing really big things, playing in front of big crowds, going to the Final Four, maybe not quite on this level,” Clark said. “I think that’s really hard to dream. You can always exceed expectations, even your own, and I think that’s been one of the coolest parts.”

Though her basketball obligations and endorsement deals (State Farm ads, etc.) have put demands on her time, she said she is the same person who showed up on campus four years ago.

“I just go about my business as I did when I was a freshman during COVID,” Clark said. “Sure, my life has kind of changed somewhat. I still live the exact same way. I still act like a 22-year-old college kid.”

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) heads to the bench after breaking the NCAA women’s career scoring record during the first half of the team’s college basketball game against Michigan, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney)

She said she still cleans her apartment, does laundry, plays video games, hangs out with friends and does schoolwork.

“The best way to debrief and get away from things is getting off your phone, getting off social media and enjoying what’s around you and the people around you and the moments that are happening,” she said.

Her run to the record could have come earlier, but it arrived back at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where ticket resale prices for the Michigan game ranged from hundreds of dollars into the thousands. Fans again showed up early outside the arena, many wearing black-and-gold No. 22 jerseys and holding signs paying homage.

Mya Anderson and her friend, Ellie Steffensen, both 12, and their moms made the six-hour drive from Canton, South Dakota, to see Clark break the record.

“I think she’s inspired a lot of people,” Mya said.

“Yeah, a lot of little girls,” Ellie added.

Mya and Ellie both play basketball, and both said they try to do some of the things Clark does on the court, like shoot long 3s.

“But I’m not as good as her,” Ellie said.

Kelly Jared of Manchester, Iowa, said she likes everything about Clark and expects her impact on the women’s game to endure.

“She’s taken it to a new level,” Jared said. “The aspirations and goals that the current players and future players have, she has set that bar way up in the sky. And it’s perfect, because they will work to attain them. As as far as the fans, there’s excitement for the people who never watched women’s basketball. My son isn’t a basketball fan, but he watched Caitlin last year and he was sold. He absolutely loves her.”

Unlike Sunday’s loss at Nebraska, when Fox drew almost two million viewers for the game, this one was streamed on Peacock.

“I understand the magnitude of this,” Clark said. “It’s come along with how my four years have gone, and it’s crazy looking back on how fast everything has gone. I’m really thankful and grateful.”




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