February 16, 2024 

Sights and sounds from Caitlin Clark’s record-breaking night

Caitlin Clark breaks NCAA D-I career, Iowa single-game scoring marks

Caitlin Clark could feel it before the game even started Thursday night. The Iowa guard needed just eight points at home against Michigan to become the new NCAA Division I women’s basketball scoring leader. And it was evident pre-game that it would happen early. 

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“Warming up, my shot just felt good,” she told a room full of 100-plus reporters after the game. “So, I knew it was going to be one of those nights and I kind of played with a little bit more pep in my step.”

That extra pep in her step resulted in Clark scoring the Hawkeyes’ first eight points in the game’s first three minutes. Clark hit a transition 3-pointer from the left side logo at the 7:48 mark in the first quarter to pass Kelsey Plum’s record of 3,527 points from 2012–17 at the University of Washington.

“Yeah, I mean, y’all knew I was going to shoot a logo three for the record, come on,” she said with a grin. 

Caitlin Clark (22) launches a 3-pointer to set the NCAA Division I women’s basketball scoring record Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. PHOTO CREDIT/hawkeyesports.com

Though Clark had previously said she didn’t want to stop the game, Iowa Head Coach Lisa Bluder called a timeout shortly after Clark’s record-breaking shot. 

“I was determined to call that timeout and just let her enjoy it,” Bluder said during the post-game press conference. “We didn’t really talk in the timeout. We just kind of all sat in our thoughts. I just wanted her to have some space to think about what she had accomplished and just enjoy the moment. Usually, that’s not me; I don’t burn timeouts for anything.”

After the timeout, Clark proceeded to score 23 points by the end of the first quarter. By the end of the game, she also broke the program’s single-game scoring record, previously held by Megan Gustafson. Clark shot 16-for-31 from the field, including 9-for-18 from three and a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line for a career-high 49 points in the Hawkeyes’ 106-89 victory over the Wolverines. She also added 13 assists, 

“I don’t know if you’re going to really script it any better,” she said. “I thought we played really well tonight – thought our defense could have been a little better – but just to do it in this fashion, I’m very grateful. I’m very thankful to be surrounded by so many people that have been my foundation in everything that I’ve done since I was a young little girl.” 

A presentation celebrating the record was held on the court after the game in front of the sold-out crowd of more than 15,000 fans. The usually stoic Clark got emotional watching a video with messages from family, friends, teammates and coaches.  

“There’s been so many famous and cool people and people I idolize growing up that say a lot of really nice things about me, but when it’s people who have had your back through the ups and downs and been there every step of the journey, whether it was good or bad, have seen the hard days and seen the good days, I think that when it means the most,” she said. “My [former] teammates, Mon[ika Czinano] and McKenna [Warnock] are in there – two people that have given so much to this program. Without those two, I don’t know where I am. And Kate [Martin] and Gab [Gabbie Marshall] and our coaches, and obviously my parents and two brothers, it just makes me pretty emotional. I think that hits a lot closer to home just because they have seen me go through some really hard losses, some really great wins. But also they’ve been there pushing me to be my very best and allowing me to dream ever since I was a young girl playing with all the boys growing up. I didn’t plan on crying tonight, but it got me a little bit.” 

The Michigan team gave Clark a gift after the game with a card signed by all of the players. 

“I am so glad that we have people in the Big Ten that understand the importance of this and the importance for women’s basketball,” Bluder said of the gesture.

More records to chase

After breaking the NCAA record in her 126th game, Clark’s career point tally now stands at 3,569 and counting. At her scoring rate of 32.8 points per game, in the next two or three games she will likely surpass Lynette Woodard‘s all-time women’s collegiate Division I record of 3,649 points, which she scored at Kansas from 1977–81.

Because Woodard played while women’s college basketball was governed by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), her record is not recognized as official by the NCAA. Clark is also 492 points away from tying Pearl Moore’s all-time women’s collegiate record of 4,061 points, which she totaled while playing for Francis Marion in South Carolina in the AIAW’s Division II.

Woodard, who lives in Lawrence, Kansas, released a statement Thursday about Clark’s achievements: 

“I want to congratulate Caitlin Clark on her sensational career and becoming the new Division I NCAA scoring leader,” she wrote. “In 1982, when the NCAA began offering women’s championships, I was the first female athlete to earn the NCAA’s Top V Award. At that time, the NCAA recognized my career scoring record of 3,649 points, all achieved in my four seasons at the University of Kansas.”

Bluder appreciates the trailblazers of women’s sports, like Woodard, and is excited about the prospect of Clark etching her name on another record.

“I’m very aware that Lynette Woodard has the [Division I] record for women’s basketball of all time, pre-NCAA, and that was before the 3-point shot. So, I’m very aware of that and I’d love to see her get it,” Bluder said.

The Iowa native is proud of the way her program has helped advance the relevance of women’s sports across the country.

“I can remember sitting on my couch with my parents in my home in Marion and watching Billie Jean King play Bobby Riggs and thinking, ‘Wow, we can really play sports, we really have this chance.’ And watching the ‘72 Olympics and thinking, ‘Wow, this a possibility for women,’” Bluder said. “Last night Billie Jean called and expressed her excitement for our program and for this record.” 

Bluder also gave a nod to former Iowa women’s athletic director, Dr. Christine Grant, who was instrumental in implementing Title IX in 1972.

“There’s just no way you can even fathom this as a little kid growing up when I did in pre-Title IX,” Bluder said. “It gave women an opportunity to compete, and now we have women that were first those Title IX babies that are mothers and grandmothers that understand the value of sport and the lessons that can be learned from sport and they want to support it. A school like Iowa has been really concerned about gender equity since Dr. Grant was here.” 

Dr. Grant died on Dec. 31, 2001, at age 85, before the Caitlin Clark phenomenon began to take flight. 

“That’s the only thing after the Final Four last year that I regret – Dr. Grant wasn’t there to see it,” Bluder said. “I’m really sad that she’s not here to witness this, because she would have loved it. I’m very thankful she hired me 24 years ago and I keep a picture of her and I on my desk that she gave to me and I think of her often.”

One more year?

As Clark was being interviewed on the court after Thursday’s game, the Hawkeye faithful began to chant, “One more year,” in an effort to urge the homegrown superstar to stay for her COVID year next season. 

“I paid ‘em,” Bluder quipped about the chant. 

The Iowa Hawkeyes celebrate with Caitlin Clark who set the NCAA Division I women’s basketball scoring record Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. PHOTO CREDIT/hawkeyesports.com

Widely predicted to be the first pick in this year’s WNBA draft, Clark will have a decision to make once the Hawkeyes’ season ends – to stay at Iowa for a fifth year or enter the WNBA where the Indiana Fever has the top pick. 

But with the NCAA scoring record under her belt, she is excited about fully focusing on the rest of the season. 

“We’re getting into the best part of basketball season; these are the times where your team really shows who they are,” she said. 

The 23-3 fourth-ranked Hawkeyes are in second place in the Big Ten standings, behind Ohio State, who defeated Iowa 100-92 on Jan. 21 in Columbus, Ohio. Iowa has four regular season games left, concluding with the rematch at home on March 3 against Ohio State. 

Written by Angie Holmes

Angela Holmes is the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) reporter for The Next. Based in the Midwest, she also covers the Big Ten and Big 12.

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