Caitlin Clark sets NCAA women’s basketball scoring record with 3,528th career point – The Athletic

By Ben PickmanFeb 16, 2024

Making history has become almost routine through Caitlin Clark’s senior year. With rabid Hawkeyes fans supporting her at home and on the road, she has blown past offensive markers with the same unique flair that makes her capable of pulling up with ease from nearly half court. On Thursday against Michigan, Clark set her most significant record yet. Fittingly, the shot that cemented her stature came just left of the mid-court logo. “You all knew I was going to shoot a logo-3 for the record. C’mon now,” Clark said afterward.

It didn’t take long to cement her place in history. On Iowa’s fifth possession, with 7:48 on the first-quarter clock, after Clark had pushed the ball up in transition, she elevated from a place that only she seems to rise from. She converted the deep 3-pointer to become the NCAA women’s basketball all-time leading scorer with a total of 3,528 points. Clark unseated former Washington star Kelsey Plum, who scored 3,527 points between 2013 to 2017.

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Euphoria ensued inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena as Clark turned to the sellout crowd and took in the moment, flexing and frolicking her way down the sideline. Iowa called a timeout shortly afterward — though not before Clark had to defend for a possession, coming as a surprise to the newly minted record holder. At the stoppage, though, Clark’s teammates mobbed their star. Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder kissed Clark’s left cheek as fans showered the all-time great with the appropriate ovation. “I’m just thankful more than anything else,” Clark said. “I will just be proud, proud of the way I worked for this more than anything.”

After scoring 31 points on Sunday against Nebraska, Clark needed just 8 points to pass Plum. The expectation entering Thursday night was that Clark would surpass that. More unexpected, however, was Clark eventually scoring a career-high and Iowa-program record 49 points in the Hawkeyes’ 106-89 win. “She picked a great night to do it,” Bluder told NBC Sports afterward. “What she’s done to uplift our program and women’s basketball nationally is spectacular.”

Clark had been held scoreless in the final quarter of Sunday’s upset loss to the Cornhuskers. She ensured Thursday’s start would be vastly different than that finish. As Clark was introduced during Iowa’s starting lineups, thousands of fans — many of whom showed up hours early — pulled out their phones to record the introductions. Hopefully, no one was late or they might have missed the headline. Clark scored a layup on Iowa’s first trip down the floor and hit a 3-pointer on its second possession. She said she then got a little tired and needed to catch her breath. By the Hawkeyes’ fifth offensive possession, however, she was ready to leapfrog Plum. She eventually scored 23 first-quarter points, half of her previous career-high (46).

The last time Clark faced Michigan, in January 2024, she finished with 28. This time, she had that at halftime, exhibiting once again why the Wolverines are among her favorite opponents. In four prior meetings against them, she averaged 34.8 points, the most of any foe she’s played at least three times. It isn’t just Michigan who Clark has overmatched, however. With great magnificence and consistency, she is averaging at least 20 points per game against each of her conference opponents. She lights up seemingly every foe she faces in nonconference play, too. Only once in her 126 Iowa games has Clark scored fewer than 10 points — an 8-point outing against Northwestern in her 10th game as a freshman. She now has 3,569 points for her career.

From her very first contest with the Hawkeyes, Clark’s impact has been tangible. In her debut, she scored 27 points in 26 minutes. Although her first 3-pointer was blocked, Clark has hit more than 450 3s throughout her career, many of them from distances previously unattempted in the women’s game. Against Michigan State earlier this season, she became the first Division I women’s player in the last 25 years to score 40 points and hit a game-winning buzzer-beater in the same contest, elevating for the night’s deciding shot with both feet touching the midcourt Hawkeyes logo.

“Caitlin has ice in her veins, and everybody knows it,” Bluder said following the win.

For four seasons, Clark’s offensive arsenal — a constant onslaught of leaning off-the-dribble pull-ups from the top of the arc, step-back jumpers from the wings, slithering dribbling moves that create opportunities for layups, precise no-look passing, and, of course, deep 3s — has wowed Hawkeyes fans and even casual spectators of the sport. Yet during Clark’s masterclasses, her peers have seldom been shocked.

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“Nothing surprises me at this point,” sixth-year senior forward Kate Martin said after Clark recorded the first-ever 41-point, 12-assist, 10-rebound triple-double in an NCAA Tournament game last March, a prolific performance that moved the Hawkeyes into their first Final Four since 1993.

Beyond recording the lone 40-point triple-double in NCAA history, Clark is the only player in the NCAA era to record 3,000 points, 750 rebounds and 750 assists. En route to leading Iowa to two conference championships, she has tallied more 30-point games than any player in the last 25 years. In November, she became Iowa’s all-time leading scorer, and by late January, the Big Ten’s all-time leader too. Her program single-game record 49 points on Thursday eclipsed former Hawkeye center Megan Gustafson’s 48-point outing in March 2018.

“I think the coolest thing is just the names that I get to be around,” Clark said after setting the Big Ten record in a January victory at Northwestern. “Those are people that I grew up watching, especially Brittney Griner, Kelsey Mitchell, those are really, really great players, people that are still playing our game at the very highest level, people that you watch night in and night out. So it’s just special for me to be in the same area as them, and obviously, I have a lot of really good teammates that have allowed me to do my thing.”

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Caitlin Clark’s green-light range made her the gold standard in women’s college basketball

Plum said in early February that she was excited for Clark to move past her in the record book.

“To be honest, I’m actually very grateful to pass that baton on,” Plum said. “Very happy for her.”

Although Clark has now set the NCAA record, she has yet to break Lynette Woodard’s women’s college basketball career scoring record of 3,649 points, set at Kansas in 1981 in the AIAW era. If Clark maintains her current scoring average, of 32.1 points per game, she’ll likely pass Woodard by the start of the Big Ten tournament in early March. Though it wouldn’t appear in the record book, Clark could pass Pete Maravich’s all-time NCAA scoring record — men’s or women’s — of 3,667 points before the season ends.

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Everywhere Clark has gone this season, a fervor of astonishment has followed. In October, the Hawkeyes played an exhibition game inside Kinnick Stadium, attracting 55,646 fans for the most ever to attend a women’s basketball game. On the road, opponents’ fans stand side-by-side with Iowa fanatics hours in advance, waiting to enter arenas to watch her warm up. Of Iowa’s 32 regular-season games, 30 are either sold out or have set arena attendance records for women’s basketball — the lone exceptions being Iowa’s neutral site games at a Thanksgiving tournament.

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Greenberg: Everywhere she goes, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark brings the joy of basketball with her

Clark has also produced booming television ratings. For instance, a recent Saturday primetime matchup against Maryland averaged more than 1.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched women’s college basketball game ever to air on Fox. Iowa’s overtime thriller against Ohio State in late January averaged nearly 2 million viewers, across NBC and Peacock, becoming the most-watched regular-season women’s college basketball on any U.S. network in more than a decade. Last year’s Final Four, featuring the Hawkeyes, was ESPN’s most-viewed Final Four weekend on record, averaging 6.5 million viewers. The national championship between Iowa and LSU drew 9.9 million viewers, which was double the audience from 2022 and the most viewed NCAA women’s basketball game ever.

After beating Michigan, Iowa conducted an on-court ceremony for the star, who sooner than later, will have her jersey retired in the Carver-Hawkeye rafters. Clark’s teammates wore T-shirts with the tagline “you break it, you own it,” on the front and Clark No. 22 on the back. Copies of the Des Moines Register with the headline “Unmatched” were distributed. A video tribute aired in the arena featuring praise from family, coaches and teammates — both past and present. A commemorative ball was awarded too. At one point, the sellout crowd — nobody had left — serenaded Clark with chants of “one more year.”

A choice about that awaits Clark, of course. While she will add to her scoring total throughout the rest of the season, the 6-foot senior will then confront a decision that will shape her future: Enter the upcoming WNBA Draft, where she is the presumptive No. 1 selection, or return to Iowa for a fifth season, taking advantage of a COVID-19 eligibility rule. If she elects the former, she’ll face the world’s best competition and begin another potentially historic career. If she chooses the latter, she’ll create even more distance from her peers in the record book.

No matter her decision, the mania will follow.

“I think she’s the most phenomenal basketball player in America,” Bluder said after Clark and the Hawkeyes upset previously undefeated South Carolina in last year’s Final Four. “I just don’t think there’s anyone like her.”

Required reading

  • Caitlin Clark’s record chase might help make Sunday super for women’s basketball, too
  • Being on receiving end of a Caitlin Clark heater isn’t easy. Just ask Nebraska fans
  • Data dive: Caitlin Clark vs. Steph Curry and other top shooters

(Photo: Matthew Holst / Getty Images)

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Ben Pickman is a staff writer for The Athletic covering the WNBA and women’s college basketball. Previously, he was a writer at Sports Illustrated where he primarily covered women’s basketball and the NBA. He has also worked at CNN Sports and the Wisconsin Center for Journalism Ethics. Follow Ben on Twitter @benpickman

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