Caitlin Clark Did It Her Way

It’s hard to write about someone finally breaking a scoring record without sounding, well, like a broken record. You have to wring several hundred words from a great player doing a thing they always do, but doing it enough to meet some benchmark that has no bearing on anything, that says so little about the kind of player they are or the legend they’ve created. What more is there to write about Caitlin Clark?

On Thursday night, she set the NCAA women’s basketball scoring record previously held by Kelsey Plum. The senior guard got it over with in a hurry: She entered Iowa’s matchup against Michigan eight points shy of passing Plum. Not quite three minutes into the game, having already scored Iowa’s first five points, she took a pass in transition and pulled up from near the logo to break the record. “It was perfect. It was absolutely perfect,” said Lisa Bluder, the one head coach in America for whom a logo heave with 25 seconds on the shot clock is just like she drew it up. It was not a matter of if, nor a matter of when, nor really ever a matter of how. “Y’all knew I was going to shoot a logo three for the record,” Clark said in the postgame press conference. “Come on now.” 

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She’s right. There’s no novelty in Caitlin Clark scoring: She is more efficient and a craftier passer, but the player who logged points 3,526, 3,527, and 3,528 the way she did last night is fundamentally the same player she was three years ago, when she first showed up on this website in a second-round NCAA tournament gamer that declared this freshman from Iowa a purveyor of the “rude pull-up” and “electric, must-watch TV.” I’m not sure how many people were actually watching the “must-watch TV.” That game set Clark against eventual first-overall WNBA draft pick Rhyne Howard of Kentucky, but aired on ESPNU, which is kind of amazing to think about now. Clark might represent a sea change in the way people cover and follow women’s sports, but for all her transformative power, she’s pretty consistent. She takes the same bonkers shots she always has, she weaponizes transition the way she always has, she plays the part of the competitive psycho the way she always has. The biggest difference between Caitlin Clark three thousand points ago and Caitlin Clark today is that other people started to care. The hype met her where she already was.

Which doesn’t make her any less fun to watch, three years and three thousand points later. With the exception of some refs and some Big Ten coaches, no one tires of the Caitlin Clark Show, and the Caitlin Clark Show never stops. At the end of the first quarter of last night’s game, she herself had outscored Michigan, with 23 points to their 22. She would end the night with a career-high 49 points—never mind her 13 assists—setting Iowa’s single-game scoring record, too. She’ll have her chance at other records this season: Lynette Woodard’s D-I women’s college basketball record (3,649 points, set when women’s basketball was governed by the AIAW, whose stats the NCAA doesn’t recognize) and Pete Maravich’s NCAA basketball record (3,667 points). She’ll break them, of course, and you’ll know what to expect when she does.

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