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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'
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Google News Recentlyheard

ARLINGTON, Texas — In entrance of a sold-out crowd of 6,251 at UT Arlington’s School Park Middle, 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 in opposition to 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 she or he additionally had 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 5 turnovers. NaLyssa Smith added 20 factors for the Fever.

“My greatest purpose coming into tonight was to proceed to be myself, play aggressive,” Clark stated. “I assumed that is what I did. I believe there’s lots to be happy with.”

Newcomers might have come out to catch a glimpse of Clark, however Dallas guard Arike Ogunbowale ensured the hometown group got here out on high, scoring Dallas’ closing seven factors and sinking a game-winning, step-back 3-pointer with 3.0 seconds to play. Clark’s off-balanced closing 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 group, Clark obtained 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 loads 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 occasions and noticed 9 ties.

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

Twenty-five miles away from the place Clark’s fame took off within the spring of 2023 with a mesmerizing Remaining 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 toes 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 stated. “It is at all times good to see your first shot go in once you’re a shooter.”

Earlier than the sport, Clark stated her essential purpose for this early WNBA motion was to remain true to herself; afterward, she stated she thought she largely did that by being aggressive and enjoying onerous whereas acknowledging she may clear up on turnovers and that there can be an adjustment to the WNBA’s physicality. Fever coach Christie Sides stated Clark appeared “gassed” and requested for a sub on the finish of the primary quarter.

It’s going to 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 that she would not need to create all the things herself and might as an alternative use screens from her teammates or set some herself to make life simpler.

“She works actually onerous to get some pictures that she would not need to work as onerous for anymore,” Sides stated.

Wings coach Latricia Trammel, in the meantime, attributed Clark’s quieter second half to an uptick in her group’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 group, that is why it is not golf,” Ogunbowale stated. “Folks like Jaelyn, the remainder of the group, they stored it collectively, and I used to be in a position to are available and on the finish hit that 3, the one 3 I hit of the sport truly. Nevertheless it’s basketball. You simply gotta shake it off and preserve 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 carry the franchise to its first postseason berth since 2016, which was WNBA nice Tamika Catchings’ closing season earlier than her retirement.

Indiana has a closing tune-up Thursday in opposition to the Atlanta Dream in Indianapolis earlier than taking up the Connecticut Solar on the highway Might 14 of their regular-season opener.

“There’s a number of good to remove from it. On the similar time, it is preseason recreation, so do not get too disenchanted by it,” Clark stated. “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.