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Clark impresses with 21 points in WNBA debut — ‘A lot to be proud of’



Clark impresses with 21 points in WNBA debut -- 'A lot to be proud of'

ARLINGTON, Texas — In entrance of a sold-out crowd of 6,251 at UT Arlington’s School Park Middle, 2024 No. 1 WNBA choose Caitlin Clark made her unofficial skilled debut Friday night, scoring 21 factors within the Fever’s slender 79-76 defeat by the hands of the Dallas Wings.

The NCAA’s all-time main scorer scored 11 of Indiana’s first 19 factors earlier than ending with 16 within the first half, highlighted by a stepback 3-pointer in opposition to veteran Natasha Howard. She went scoreless within the third quarter and sat on the bench for a lot of the body after choosing up her third and fourth fouls in fast succession.

Upon re-entering the sport within the fourth, Clark hit one other 3-pointer, her fifth of the night time and located Aliyah Boston for an help on the pick-and-roll. A “welcome to the WNBA” second got here with the sport tied and fewer than 30 seconds to play when Howard blocked Clark’s layup try with the shot clock dwindling.

Clark’s 21 factors (6 for 15 capturing, 5 for 13 from 3) tied for the sport excessive with Dallas rookie Jaelyn Brown, and he or she additionally contributed 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 5 turnovers. NaLyssa Smith added 20 factors for the Fever.

“My greatest aim coming into tonight was to proceed to be myself, play aggressive,” Clark mentioned. “I assumed that is what I did. I feel there’s quite a bit to be happy with.”

Newcomers could have come out to catch a glimpse of Clark, however Dallas guard Arike Ogunbowale ensured the hometown staff got here up on high, scoring Dallas’ last seven factors and sinking a game-winning, step-back 3-pointer with 3.0 seconds to play. Clark’s off-balanced last shot on the buzzer in an effort to tie the sport fell brief.

It was an enormous day for sports activities within the Metroplex. In downtown Dallas the NBA’s Mavericks hosted a first-round series-clinching Recreation 6 victory in opposition to the LA Clippers, whereas the NHL’s Stars had been in their very own first-round Recreation 6 battle in Las Vegas, which they dropped. Even nonetheless, scores of followers filtered to Arlington with indicators for Clark or sporting No. 22.

Regardless of being from the visiting staff, the NCAA’s all-time main scorer acquired a thunderous cheer as she was launched as a part of the Fever’s beginning 5, as did fellow former No. 1 choose Boston. The group, whereas largely pro-Wings, cheered lots for Clark, particularly as she hit 4 of her eight 3-point makes an attempt within the first half, however stayed engaged because the groups traded the lead seven instances and noticed 9 ties.

“You could not ask for a greater sport, actually, for girls’s basketball to kick off this [WNBA] yr,” Clark mentioned. “An amazing sport coming all the way down to the wire, each groups competing. That is going to be the story of the whole yr.”

Twenty-five miles away from the place Clark’s fame took off within the spring of 2023 with a mesmerizing Closing 4 run with the Hawkeyes, the rookie sensation hit her first two shot makes an attempt of her professional profession, each 3-pointers — the primary on a baseline out-of-bounds play the place Clark’s defender misplaced her, and with Wings followers nonetheless on their ft ready for the hometown squad to get on the board.

“I used to be in a position to get a fairly clear search for my first shot,” she mentioned. “It is at all times good to see your first shot go in once you’re a shooter.”

Earlier than the sport Clark mentioned her primary aim for this early WNBA motion was to remain true to herself; afterwards, she thought she largely did that by being aggressive and enjoying onerous, whereas acknowledging she might clear up on turnovers and that there will be an adjustment to the WNBA’s physicality. Head coach Christie Sides mentioned Clark seemed “gassed” and requested for a sub on the finish of the primary quarter.

It will be a studying course of too, Clark and Sides each added, as Clark will get accustomed to enjoying with and in opposition to such high-level expertise. The purpose guard mirrored postgame she would not must create all the pieces herself and may as an alternative use screens from her teammates or set some herself to make life simpler.

“She works actually onerous to get some photographs that she would not must work as onerous for anymore,” Sides mentioned.

Wings coach Latricia Trammel, in the meantime, attributed Clark’s quieter second half to an uptick in her staff’s defensive communication and depth following a “passive” begin.

These tuning in for Clark additionally had been handled to the memorable performances from Brown and Ogunbowale (19), who paced the Wings.

“I had a horrible capturing day [9 for 24, 1 for 7 from 3] however that is why it is a staff, that is why it isn’t golf,” Ogunbowale mentioned. “Folks like Jaelyn, the remainder of the staff, they saved it collectively, and I used to be in a position to are available in and on the finish hit that 3, the one 3 I hit of the sport truly. However, it is basketball, you simply gotta shake it off and preserve capturing.”

The Fever are hoping Clark and the remainder of their younger core, which incorporates Boston and Smith, the 2022 No. 2 choose, will elevate the franchise to its first postseason berth since 2016, franchise- and league-great Tamika Catchings’ last season earlier than her retirement.

Indiana has a last tune-up Thursday in opposition to the Atlanta Dream in Indianapolis earlier than taking over the Connecticut Solar on the street Could 14 of their common season opener.

“There’s a whole lot of good to remove from it. On the identical time, it is preseason sport, so do not get too dissatisfied by it,” Clark mentioned. “Simply return and watch the movie, study from it, and prepare for our subsequent one.”

Data From The Related Press was used on this report.

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