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Caitlin Clark impresses in WNBA debut – ‘A lot to be proud of’



Caitlin Clark impresses 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 Heart, 2024 No. 1 choose Caitlin Clark made her WNBA preseason debut Friday night, scoring 21 factors within the Indiana Fever’s 79-76 loss to 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 step-back 3-pointer towards veteran Natasha Howard. Clark went scoreless within the third quarter and sat on the bench for a lot of the body after selecting up her third and fourth fouls in fast succession.

Upon reentering 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 taking pictures, 5-for-13 from 3) tied for the sport excessive with Dallas rookie Jaelyn Brown, and he or she additionally had 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 5 turnovers. NaLyssa Smith added 20 factors for the Fever.

“My largest aim coming into tonight was to proceed to be myself, play aggressive,” Clark mentioned. “I believed that is what I did. I feel there’s so much 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 out on prime, scoring Dallas’ remaining seven factors and sinking a game-winning, step-back 3-pointer with 3.0 seconds to play. Clark’s off-balanced remaining shot on the buzzer in an effort to tie the sport fell quick.

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 towards 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, Clark 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 gang, whereas principally pro-Wings, cheered a lot 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 incredible sport coming all the way down to the wire, each groups competing. That is going to be the story of your complete yr.”

Twenty-five miles away from the place Clark’s fame took off within the spring of 2023 with a mesmerizing Last 4 run with the Hawkeyes, the rookie sensation hit her first two shot makes an attempt as a professional, 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 capable of get a reasonably clear search for my first shot,” she mentioned. “It is all the time good to see your first shot go in if you’re a shooter.”

Earlier than the sport, Clark mentioned her principal aim for this early WNBA motion was to remain true to herself; afterward, she mentioned she thought she principally did that by being aggressive and taking part in laborious whereas acknowledging she might clear up on turnovers and that there can be an adjustment to the WNBA’s physicality. Fever coach Christie Sides mentioned Clark regarded “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 taking part in with and towards such high-level expertise. The purpose guard mirrored postgame that she would not need to create every part herself and might as a substitute use screens from her teammates or set some herself to make life simpler.

“She works actually laborious to get some photographs that she would not need to work as laborious 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 taking pictures day [9-for-24, 1-for-7 from 3], however that is why it is a staff, that is why it is not golf,” Ogunbowale mentioned. “Folks like Jaelyn, the remainder of the staff, they stored it collectively, and I used to be capable of are available in and on the finish hit that 3, the one 3 I hit of the sport really. Nevertheless it’s basketball. You simply gotta shake it off and hold taking pictures.”

The Fever are hoping Clark and the remainder of their younger core, which incorporates Boston and Smith, the 2022 No. 2 choose, will raise the franchise to its first postseason berth since 2016, which was WNBA nice Tamika Catchings’ remaining season earlier than her retirement.

Indiana has a remaining tune-up Thursday towards the Atlanta Dream in Indianapolis earlier than taking up the Connecticut Solar on the street Might 14 of their regular-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.”

Info from The Related Press was used on this report.

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