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    Monday, April 15, 2024

    Caitlin Clark of Iowa breaks NCAA women’s career scoring record with 35-foot 3-pointer

    Iowa players hoist teammate Caitlin Clark after she broke the NCAA women's career scoring record in the team's game against Michigan on Thursday in Iowa City, Iowa. (Matthew Putney/AP Photo)

    Iowa City, Iowa — Caitlin Clark wasted no time becoming the NCAA women’s career scoring leader Thursday night, taking less than three minutes to score the eight points she needed to break Kelsey Plum’s record.

    The Iowa star who has brought unprecedented attention to women's basketball surpassed the record with her signature shot — a 35-foot 3-pointer that hit nothing but the bottom of the net.

    And Clark didn’t let up from there. She finished with a school-record 49 points, tied her career best with nine 3-pointers and had 13 assists in No. 4 Iowa’s 106-89 victory over Michigan.

    Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder took Clark out of the game with 1:46 left, shortly after she made her final 3, and she went to the bench to an ovation from the sellout crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

    “I don't know if you could script it any better,” Clark said. “Just to do it in this fashion, I'm very grateful and thankful to be surrounded by so many people who have been my foundation in everything I've done since I was a young little girl. You all knew I was going to shoot the logo 3 for the record.”

    Clark's huge night put her at 3,569 points and within 80 of her next milestone, Lynette Woodard's major women's college scoring record of 3,649.

    The record-breaker was a 3 off the dribble on the left wing near the Mediacom Court logo with 7:45 left in the first quarter.

    “Warming up, my shot just felt good, so I knew it was going to be kind of one of those nights," she said. "I played with a little more pep in my step.”

    Clark set the record in 126 games, 13 fewer than Plum, who finished with 3,527 points in four seasons at Washington from 2013-17. Woodard starred at Kansas from 1977-81, an era when 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. Woodard and Moore played before the 3-point line was introduced.

    Iowa has four regular-season games left, plus the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. Barring injury, Clark, a senior who averages 32.8 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.

    Fans started chanting “One more year! One more year!” while Clark, who is projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft, was doing a postgame television interview.

    “I paid them,” Bluder said, drawing laughs. “I thought it was a pretty good chant.”

    Among those offering congratulations on social media was LSU star Angel Reese, who shared the spotlight with Clark in last season’s national championship game won by the Tigers. The Big Ten Network put out a congratulatory compilation video that included Tom Brady and Peyton and Eli Manning.

    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.

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

    “It was absolutely perfect," Bluder said, “for her to go over and reach this record with a logo 3.”

    Bluder called a timeout shortly thereafter, and Clark hugged teammates and coaches during a brief celebration.

    “That was never really my goal, to get it done really fast," Clark said. "I hit my first couple shots, and I was able to get another one up pretty fast. It was nice to get it done there fairly quick so we could move on and focus on winning the basketball game.”

    Clark, who scored 40 points or more for the 12th time, had 23 in the first quarter and went on to play one of her best games. She scored or assisted on 79 points, the most by a Division I women's player in at least 25 years, according to OptaSTATS.

    Clark and her dynamic play 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. 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 6-foot guard from West Des Moines stayed in state and picked Iowa over Notre Dame in November 2019.

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

    Her run to the record could have come earlier, but it arrived back at Carver-Hawkeye, where ticket resale prices for the game ranged from hundreds of dollars into the thousands. As usual, fans 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.”

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