Friday, February 23, 2024
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Caitlin Clark’s green-light range made her the gold standard in women’s college basketball


IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s impossible to pinpoint the exact moment it was determined in Iowa that any shot coming out of Caitlin Clark’s hands was not only a reasonable shot, but also a good shot. Because there are green lights, and then there are Green lights. And Clark actually worked in the latter field for much of his career.

But there are strong arguments that it was February 6, 2022.

It was Clark’s second season, and although she had put up big numbers, she was not yet considered the one-woman wrecking crew she has now become. To reach this level of knowledge, a player must not only throw stones, but also kill Goliath. And at that point, even though she was a great scorer, she was part of a team that had yet to beat top opponents. The Hawkeyes were 1-9 against career-best 25 teams and were on the road against No. 6 Michigan.

She started the game with a putback from the free throw line and followed it up with a pull-up triple. She hit a few drives and more mid-rangers, but the real treat came when she started hitting logo 3s during the fourth quarter as the Hawkeyes (read: Clark) tried to pull off an upset. In 92 seconds, she made three transition 3s, the final one as she was swarmed by Michigan defenders who Clark put on skates. She finished with 46 points. Even though Iowa still lost, something changed that night.

As broadcasters shouted through their microphones after yet another triple of logos: “What did she do?” What did she just do? Iowa coach Lisa Bluder walked calmly down the sideline, not even surprised or pleased enough to uncross her arms. Without context, she just looks like a coach saying the same old, same old while turning to his bench.

“At first when you’re coaching her, it’s kind of fun in practice when she takes some of those shots and makes some of those shots. But then in games, as a coach, you think, ‘Phew, that’s not advisable,'” Bluder said. “But there’s a point where you realize, ‘She’s different from everyone else and she can actually succeed at a pretty alarming rate.’

“There was a change in my mind,” she added. “At that point we were like, ‘OK, we’re going to go for it. »

“This” as in: For Clark, anything goes.

And since February 6, 2022, it has worked out pretty well for Clark and Iowa. The senior team is now 39 points away from the NCAA women’s basketball scoring record, and the Hawkeyes, who beat South Carolina – the Goliath of women’s basketball – in last season’s Final Four , are now nationally recognized as a powerhouse and are firmly ranked second nationally. this season behind the Gamecocks.

Clark is a recognized name outside the world of women’s basketball, a player who is followed by security guards before and after games and at public events. It has NIL partnerships with Nike, State Farm and Gatorade. She is the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2024 WNBA draft if she declares, and the biggest headache for opposing coaches in women’s college hoops if she chooses to return for her fifth year.


Ask coaches who have faced her (or who fear they might later), and they will all tell you the same thing: you don’t stop her. You might slow it down, you might make it more ineffective, but you can’t stop Clark. When Clark dropped those 46 points against Michigan in 2022, Wolverine coach Kim Barnes Arico said after the game, “I didn’t even know what was happening.”

That’s perhaps the most impressive part of his run to the goalscoring record: Clark’s unwavering consistency. She never missed a match. In 124 outings at Iowa, she only managed to score in double figures once. As she has expanded her range over the past four seasons, her field goal percentages have steadily increased. “His consistency is off the charts,” Bluder said Thursday night after Clark scored 27 points in a win over Penn State. “For her to do this day after day, night after night, in sold-out arenas, chasing records, to be this consistent is incredible. Everyone has a bad night. We all have bad nights. Caitlin doesn’t have bad nights.

As teams gave her new and different defensive looks, she continued to outrun anything her opponents could create. Double her and she finds the angle. Tread on her and she rises above to land the blow. Throw the kitchen sink at her to discover she can press the 3 logo and wash the dishes at the same time.

Among the top 10 scorers in Division I history, only two averaged more than 25 points during their college careers (current record holder Kelsey Plum: 25.4; Elena Delle Donne: 26.7) .

Clark has an average of 28.1.

This season, Big Ten fans have shelled out hundreds of dollars to get their butts into conference arenas in hopes that their “home” team can endure a 46-point beating from the 6-point guard feet just so they, you can also have the Caitlin Clark experience.

Under the microscope, Clark didn’t hesitate either. His worst game this season — a 24-point, six-rebound, three-assist night against Kansas State — would still be a career night for 99 percent of college basketball players.

Clark said after the game, “I think it shows that you have to come every day and be ready to play basketball because it doesn’t matter who it is, you can beat anyone, you can lose.” [to] anybody. That’s a big thing in women’s basketball. That’s what makes it so fun. I’m just disappointed that we didn’t really put in a great performance for our fans who came out and supported us really well.

GO FURTHER

When will Caitlin Clark break the all-time women’s college basketball record?

Because when you watch Clark, it’s not just about basketball, it’s a real performance that she puts on for fans who show up not only with a hope but also with the expectation to be impressed and surprised. They don’t want 3s, they want 3 logos. They don’t want invisible passes, they want to see something they’ve never seen before. They want the show Clark’s coaches and teammates have had in practice the past four seasons. They don’t just want Bluder’s green light for Clark, they want her on the highway for 40 minutes.

Despite all the attention, Clark didn’t just deliver, she was consistently excellent, constantly leaving viewers wondering, “What did she do?” What did she just do?

Now, she may be just a few quarters away from cementing herself atop the NCAA women’s scoring record, a feat that for Clark — with this green light — seems like it will only take a very good quarters to become the top scorer. maestro.

(Photo by Caitlin Clark: G Fiume / Getty Images)





Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from theathletic.com

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