Caitlin Clark impresses with 21 points in pro debut as Fever fall

ARLINGTON, Texas — In front of a sold-out crowd of 7,000 at UT Arlington’s College Park Center, 2024 WNBA No. 1 draft pick Caitlin Clark made her unofficial professional debut Friday night, scoring 21 points in from the Fever’s narrow 79-76 defeat to the Dallas Wings.

The NCAA’s all-time leading scorer scored 11 of Indiana’s first 19 points before finishing with 16 in the first half, highlighted by a putback 3-pointer against veteran Natasha Howard. She went scoreless in the third quarter and sat on the bench for much of the game after committing her third and fourth fouls in quick succession.

Entering the game in the fourth, Clark made another 3-pointer, his fifth of the night, and found Boston for an assist on the pick-and-roll. Her “welcome to the WNBA” moment came with the game tied and less than 30 seconds left. Howard blocked his layup attempt – his final shot at the buzzer in an effort to tie the game failed.

Clark’s 21 points (6 of 15 shooting, 5 of 13 from 3) tied for the game high with Dallas rookie Jaelyn Brown. She added 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 5 turnovers.

“My biggest goal tonight was to continue to be myself and play aggressive,” Clark said. “I thought that’s what I did. I think that’s something to be proud of.

The newcomers may have come to catch a glimpse of Clark, but Dallas goalkeeper Arike Ogunbowale ensured his hometown team had the upper hand, finishing the contest on a personal 7-0 run and recording a Game-winning 3-point field goal with 3.0 seconds to play. She finished with 19 points.

It’s a big day for sports in the Metroplex. In downtown Dallas, the NBA Mavericks host a potentially decisive first-round game against the LA Clippers. The NHL Stars could do the same with a victory in Las Vegas. Many fans traveled to Arlington with signs for Clark or wearing the number 22.

Despite being part of the visiting team, the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer received thunderous cheers when she was introduced as part of the Fever’s starting five, as was her compatriot, former No. 1 pick, Aliyah Boston.

“The crowd was great all night,” Clark said. “That’s what you expect with a full house. It’s going to be the same for the crowd all year long. So whether they’re rooting for you or they’re rooting for you, you better get used to it .”

Twenty-five miles from where Clark’s fame took off in the spring of 2023 with a fascinating run to the Final Four with the Hawkeyes, the rookie sensation made his first two shot attempts of his professional career, both from 3 points – the first with the Wings. the fans are still standing waiting for the home team to join the picture.

“I was able to get a pretty clean look for my first shot,” she said. “It’s always nice to see your first shot when you’re a shooter.”

The Fever hope Clark and the rest of their young core, which includes Boston and 2022 second-round pick NaLyssa Smith, will carry the franchise to its first playoff berth since 2016, the major franchise and league’s final season. Tamika Catchings before her. retirement.

Indiana has one final tune-up Thursday against the Atlanta Dream in Indianapolis before facing the Connecticut Sun on the road May 14 in its regular season opener.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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