Caitlin Clark sets NCAA women’s basketball scoring record with 3,528th career point


Making history has become almost routine throughout Caitlin Clark’s senior year. With rabid Hawkeyes fans supporting her at home and on the road, she has blown past offensive markers with the same unique flair unique that makes her capable of pulling up with ease from nearly half court. On Thursday against Michigan, Clark set her most significant record yet.

With 7:48 on the clock in the first quarter, Clark converted a pull-up 3 to become the NCAA women’s basketball all-time leading scorer with a total of 3,528 points. She unseated former Washington star Kelsey Plum, who scored 3,527 points between 2013 to 2017.

Anticipation for Clark’s milestone had grown in recent days as she sat just a few hoops shy of the record. On Sunday at Nebraska, Clark scored 31 points in only three quarters and appeared poised to pass Plum. But Iowa’s offense stalled, and Clark went scoreless in the fourth quarter. The Hawkeyes were upset, but the result of Clark’s struggles meant she seemed almost guaranteed to make history in front of her adoring fanbase. She entered Thursday’s game needing only eight points to set the record.

Michigan, in many ways, is a fitting opponent on Clark’s momentous night. In four prior meetings against the Wolverines, she averaged 34.8 points, the most of any opponent she’s played at least three times. It isn’t just Michigan who Clark has overmatched, however. With great magnificence and consistency, she is averaging at least 20 points per game against each of her conference opponents. She lights up seemingly every foe she faces in nonconference play, too. Only once in her 126 Iowa games has Clark scored fewer than 10 points — an eight-point outing against Northwestern in her 10th game as a freshman.

From her very first contest with the Hawkeyes, Clark’s impact has been tangible. In her debut, she scored 27 points in 26 minutes. Although her first 3-pointer was blocked, Clark has hit more than 1,200 3s throughout her career, many of them from distances previously unattempted in the women’s game. Against Michigan State earlier this season, she became the first Division I women’s player in the last 25 years to score 40 points and hit a game-winning buzzer-beater in the same contest, elevating for the night’s deciding shot with both feet touching the midcourt Hawkeyes logo.

“Caitlin has ice in her veins, and everybody knows it,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said afterward.

For four seasons, Clark’s offensive arsenal — a constant onslaught of leaning off-the-dribble pull-ups from the top of the arc, step-back jumpers from the wings, slithering dribbling moves that create opportunities for layups, precise no-look passing, and, of course, deep 3s — has wowed Hawkeyes fans and even casual spectators of the sport. Yet during Clark’s masterclasses, her peers have seldom been shocked.

“Nothing surprises me at this point,” sixth-year senior forward Kate Martin said after Clark recorded the first-ever 41-point, 12-assist, 10-rebound triple-double in an NCAA Tournament game last March, a prolific performance that moved the Hawkeyes into their first Final Four since 1993.

Beyond recording the lone 40-point triple-double in NCAA history, Clark is the only player in the NCAA era to record 3,000 points, 750 rebounds and 750 assists. En route to leading Iowa to two conference championships, she has tallied more 30-point games than any player in the last 25 years. In November, she became Iowa’s all-time leading scorer, and by late January, the Big Ten’s all-time leader too.

“I think the coolest thing is just the names that I get to be around,” Clark said after setting the Big Ten record in a January victory at Northwestern. “Those are people that I grew up watching, especially Brittney Griner, Kelsey Mitchell, those are really, really great players, people that are still playing our game at the very highest level, people that you watch night in and night out. So it’s just special for me to be in the same area as them, and obviously, I have a lot of really good teammates that have allowed me to do my thing.”

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Caitlin Clark’s green-light range made her the gold standard in women’s college basketball

Plum said in early February that she was excited for Clark to move past her in the record book.

“To be honest, I’m actually very grateful to pass that baton on,” Plum said. “Very happy for her.”

Although Clark has now set the NCAA record, she has yet to break Lynette Woodard’s women’s college basketball career scoring record of 3,649 points, set at Kansas in 1981 in the AIAW era. If Clark maintains her current scoring average, of 32.1 points per game, she’ll likely pass Woodard by the start of the Big Ten tournament in early March. Though it wouldn’t appear in the record book, Clark could pass Pete Maravich’s all-time NCAA scoring record — men’s or women’s — of 3,667 points before the season ends.

Everywhere Clark has gone this season, a fervor of astonishment has followed. In October, the Hawkeyes played an exhibition game inside Kinnick Stadium, attracting 55,646 fans for the most ever to attend a women’s basketball game. On the road, opponents’ fans stand side-by-side with Iowa fanatics hours in advance, waiting to enter arenas to watch her warm up. Of Iowa’s 32 regular-season games, 30 are either sold out or have set arena attendance records for women’s basketball — the lone exceptions being Iowa’s neutral site games at a Thanksgiving tournament.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Greenberg: Everywhere she goes, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark brings the joy of basketball with her

Clark has also produced booming television ratings. For instance, a recent Saturday primetime matchup against Maryland averaged more than 1.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched women’s college basketball game ever to air on Fox. Iowa’s overtime thriller against Ohio State in late January averaged nearly 2 million viewers, across NBC and Peacock, becoming the most-watched regular-season women’s college basketball on any U.S. network in more than a decade. Last year’s Final Four, featuring the Hawkeyes, was ESPN’s most-viewed Final Four weekend on record, averaging 6.5 million viewers. The national championship between Iowa and LSU drew 9.9 million viewers, which was double the audience from 2022 and the most viewed NCAA women’s basketball game ever.

Interest will follow as Clark adds to her scoring total throughout the season. From there, the 6-foot senior will confront a decision that will shape her future: Enter the upcoming WNBA Draft, where she is the presumptive No. 1 selection, or return to Iowa for a fifth season, taking advantage of a COVID-19 eligibility rule. If she elects the former, she’ll face the world’s best competition and begin another potentially historic career. If she chooses the latter, she’ll create even more distance from her peers in the record book.

No matter her decision, the mania will follow.

“I think she’s the most phenomenal basketball player in America,” Bluder said after Clark and the Hawkeyes upset previously undefeated South Carolina in last year’s Final Four. “I just don’t think there’s anyone like her.”

Required reading

(Photo: Michael Reaves / Getty Images)





Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top