When it comes to Caitlin Clark, it seems new history is always on the horizon. On Wednesday, it was the chance to set the Big Ten all-time scoring record and move up the NCAA all-time scoring list.
Clark, who entered Iowa’s game against Northwestern fourth on the NCAA all-time scoring list with 3,389 career points, needed five points to jump Jackie Stiles (Missouri State). Clark surpassed that mark before the first quarter ended and leaped Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State) for second place a frame later, scoring her 3,403rd career point. That mark also sets the Big Ten all-time scoring record.
Clark is chasing Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum for the women’s all-time scoring record (3,527 points). Pete Maravich, who played at LSU from the 1967-68 to 1969-70 seasons, holds the all-time record for both men’s and women’s basketball with 3,667 career points.
“I think the coolest thing is just the names that I get to be around,” Clark said postgame. “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.”
When will Caitlin Clark break the women’s college basketball all-time scoring record?
With a sold-out crowd of 7,039 anticipated for Wednesday’s game, this is by far the biggest crowd Clark has played in front of at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The first time Clark played in the Northwestern arena on Jan. 9, 2021, there were no fans in the stands because of the COVID-19 pandemic as the Wildcats won 77-67. The second time on Jan. 28, 2022, there was an announced attendance of just 1,578 for Iowa’s 72-67 overtime win.
“Obviously, I started in COVID-19, where it’s just family, and now, every single game I play in, it’s all sold out,” Clark said. “So it’s not something you ever take for granted. I think it’s kind of crazy people are screaming my name so much. It’s not something you really ever get used to.
“This (game) was one that was definitely circled on my calendar because I know the amount of Iowa fans in the Chicago area. So I was super excited to come here, I love this gym and coach Joe (McKeown). I have so much respect for him. I think he’s amazing. He’s amazing for women’s basketball. And we’ve had a lot of really good battles in this arena.”
Through her Iowa career, Clark became the first Division I women’s basketball player in NCAA history with a 40-point triple-double, the first player with 3,000 points, 750 rebounds and 750 assists and has tallied more 30-point games than any player in the last 25 years.
Clark is averaging a career-high 32 points per game this season, adding 7.1 rebounds and 7.6 assists. Against Northwestern, Clark logged 35 points and 10 assists en route to her 54th career double-double. She finished 11-of-22 shooting, missing 9 of 12 3-pointers, but went 10-for-10 from the line. Clark was pulled with 4:25 left in the game to a standing ovation.
No. 3 Iowa ousted Northwestern 110-74 to improve to 20-2 overall and 9-1 in conference.
A glimpse into Clark’s historic day
Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan had a famous bit of logic: scoring 32 points a game was easy because it was just eight points a quarter. With just a little offensive aggression — only five shot attempts — Clark outdid that math by two points Wednesday.
Clark scored 10 in the first quarter with a pair of deep threes and four free throws to get her close to the Big Ten scoring record. After a brief rest to start the second quarter, she immediately scored on a layup. And with just under 5 minutes to go in the first half, she broke the Big Ten scoring record on a layup.
But with all the attention and build-up to her game Wednesday, there was no mention of it happening and no reaction at Welsh-Ryan Arena, despite it being mostly made up Iowa fans.
Iowa fans started waiting in line for general admission seats at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Nearly three hours before the 7 p.m. CT tipoff, the line to get in stretched down the street. Northwestern only has two sections with assigned seating for women’s games, with one being the upscale Wilson Club — so it created a bit of a logjam for a massive crowd. (Northwestern’s women’s team averages 1,671 fans a game.)
When Clark arrived to warm up, she was met with a nearly full house and fans were shrieking as she was announced with the starters and walked to the bench at the game’s end.
Clark carries with her the vibe of a barnstorming basketball hero, but she didn’t have a particularly memorable first half, despite scoring 18 points. She went 4-for-11 from the field, missing 5 of 7 3-point shots. She did go 8-for-8 from the line, though people weren’t lining up for the better part of a chilly day to watch her hit free throws. It wasn’t Clark’s best shooting performance, but she did a good job of getting her teammates involved early and leading Iowa to the big win.
“I didn’t shoot it very well from 3 tonight,” Clark said, “and I’ve been shooting the ball pretty well, so you’re due for one of those nights here and there. I was just a little short. So, you know, that happens. But I got to the free-throw line and hit all 10 of my free throws. That’s just kind of what you have to do.” — Jon Greenberg, Chicago sports columnist
(Photo: Jim Dedmon / USA Today)