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

Chantel Jennings, Ben Pickman and moreFeb 11, 2024

Iowa fans, start planning your celebrations.

In all likelihood, Caitlin Clark will set the NCAA all-time scoring record on Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena against Michigan. After scoring 31 points at Nebraska on Sunday in an 82-79 loss, Clark needs only eight points to surpass former Washington star Kelsey Plum’s record of 3,527, which she set in 2017.

For Hawkeyes fans, that may be just as well. If Clark sets the record Thursday, the spotlight will be fully centered on her — unlike the strong possibility of women’s basketball history being lost in the Super Bowl shadow had she set it Sunday.

Clark moved past Jackie Stiles and Kelsey Mitchell into second place on Jan. 31 at Northwestern, when she also became the Big Ten’s leading scorer.

1. Plum, Washington (2013-17): 3,527 career points

2. Clark, Iowa (2020-24): 3,489

3. Mitchell, Ohio State (2014-18): 3,402

4. Stiles, Missouri State (1997-2001): 3,393

Against Michigan, Clark averages 34.8 points per game and has scored a career-high 46 points.

Clark has captured the nation’s attention for more than this record chase. Through her Iowa career, she has made history: the first Division I women’s basketball player in the NCAA with a 40-point triple-double, the first with 3,000 points, 750 rebounds and 750 assists, and more 30-point games than any player in the last 25 years.

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She’s dazzled with a regular display of logo-range, how-did-she-do-that 3-pointers and by putting Iowa women’s basketball back on the map with last season’s run to the national championship game. Her video-game scoring style, her pinpoint passes and her flair have made her arguably the most famous women’s college basketball player, and last season and this season, among the most recognizable college athletes of any sport.

On Sunday, she was playing again in front of a sellout crowd of 15,042 fans and a national television audience. A crowd of Nebraska and Iowa fans wrapped around the arena before the game, waiting to enter and with hopes of seeing history. But a game-tying 3-point miss by Clark in the waning seconds and a scoreless fourth quarter from her will surely be a sore spot for Iowa, who lost to the Cornhuskers for the first time in Clark’s career.

That disappointment won’t last long if Clark sets the record later this week.

Date Opponent PPG required How to watch
Feb. 15 vs. Michigan 8 8 p.m., Peacock
Feb. 22 vs. Indiana 4 8 p.m., Peacock
Feb. 25 vs. Illinois 2.7 1 p.m., FS1
Feb. 28 at Minnesota 2 9 p.m., Peacock
March 3 vs. Ohio State 1.6 1 p.m., FOX Sports

Just shy

While Iowa pushed its lead to 14 heading into the fourth quarter, Nebraska, led by guard Jaz Shelley and center Alexis Markowski, opened the period on a 10-2 run. While holding Clark scoreless for the entirety of the period, — Sunday marked the first time Clark has played an entire fourth quarter and not scored — the Cornhuskers ended up taking their first lead with 32 seconds to play when Shelley knocked down a 3-pointer. Nebraska would close the game on a 12-2 run in the final 3:10 to pull off the major upset.

With five seconds remaining, Clark missed her final 3-pointer of the day, setting off a euphoric scene in Lincoln. Fans stormed the court as the Cornhuskers defeated the Hawkeyes for the first time since December 2019.

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Caitlin Clark 8 points shy of all-time scoring record

Which opponents can Clark do the most damage against?

Of the remaining six opponents on Iowa’s regular-season schedule, Clark has averaged more than 20 points against all of them. She’s given Nebraska nightmares throughout the years, registering eight 30-point games against the Cornhuskers and averaging 34.8 points. As a sophomore, she dropped 41 points on them.

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Michigan, historically, presents opportunities for Clark, too. She lit up the Wolverines for 46 points (along with 10 assists) as a sophomore, and she scorched Ohio State for 45 points in a recent overtime loss.

All this to say, it’s not hard to see how Clark won’t take long to overtake the record.

Opponent PPG High Score
Michigan 34.8 46
Ohio State 33.8 45
Minnesota 32.2 37
Indiana 28.3 34
Illinois 27.3 32

Another milestone in store?

Clark could also pass Pete Maravich’s all-time scoring mark this season.

Pistol Pete, whose career average was 44.2 points per game, scored 3,667 points. Detroit’s Antoine Davis came close to breaking it last season, finishing with 3,664 points, albeit during a five-season career. If Clark maintains her scoring average, she could go over Maravich’s total by Iowa’s final regular-season game.

When it comes to Clark passing Maravich, there are some obvious caveats. Of course, men’s and women’s basketball have their own record books. Maravich played only three seasons on LSU’s varsity (1967-70) because rules prohibited freshmen from competing at that level so that year’s scoring isn’t factored into NCAA records. And (huge one here) Maravich played before the 3-point line was introduced, making his long-standing record that much more remarkable.

The women’s scoring record lost to history

As Clark closes in on Plum’s record, it’s important to clarify that she won’t yet be the all-time Division I women’s college basketball scoring leader even after passing Plum’s mark. That record belongs to Lynette Woodard, a former Kansas player who set the all-time DI women’s scoring record in 1981 with 3,649 points.

The Jayhawks played in the AIAW, a governing body for women’s collegiate sports. It wasn’t until 1981-82, the year after Woodward’s college career finished, that the NCAA began holding women’s championships. Woodward’s point total — which also came prior to the inclusion of the 3-point line in the sport — is not currently recognized by the NCAA. (However, some AIAW statistics, like career victory totals from coaches Tara VanDerveer and Pat Summitt, are included in NCAA record book totals.)

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Woodward was described in a 1984 Sports Illustrated article as an athlete who “floats, gazelle-like, at wing, guard, or small forward.”  She went on to captain the 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team, which won a gold medal. She became the first woman to play with the Harlem Globetrotters, and she finished her playing career in the WNBA with the Detroit Shock. In 2004, she was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. If Clark maintains her current scoring average, of 32.2 points per game, she’ll likely pass Woodard by the start of the Big Ten tournament in early March. — Ben Pickman

More than points

Clark is also climbing up the career assist list. She notched her 1,000th career assist Sunday in the first half against Nebraska.

How did Clark’s green light make her the gold standard?

It’s impossible to pinpoint the exact moment when it was determined in Iowa that any shot that left Caitlin Clark’s hands was not just a reasonable shot, but also a good shot. Because there are green lights, and then there are green lights. And Clark has matter-of-factly operated in the latter for much of her career.

But there’s a solid argument to be made that it was Feb. 6, 2022.

It was Clark’s sophomore season, and while she had been putting up big numbers, she wasn’t yet considered the one-woman wrecking crew that she has now become. To get to that level of lore, a player needs to not just throw the rocks but slay Goliath. And at that point, though she was a massive scorer, she was on a team that hadn’t yet taken down the best opponents. The Hawkeyes were 1-9 against top-25 teams in her career and they were on the road facing No. 6 Michigan. — Chantel Jennings

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

‘She’s an intense competitor’

What did Iowa first notice when recruiting Clark? What’s it like from the inside watching her chase the record and lead Iowa to new heights? Iowa assistant Jan Jensen joined reporter Chantel Jennings on “The Athletic Women’s Basketball Show” to discuss the Hawkeyes.

All eyes on Clark

Saturday’s Iowa-Maryland game on Fox averaged 1.58 million viewers in primetime. That’s the most-watched women’s basketball game in the history of Fox Sports.

The contest was the second most-watched women’s college hoops game this season behind Ohio State-Iowa on NBC on Jan. 21, which garnered 1.93 million viewers. Iowa has now played in three of the five most-watched women’s college basketball games this season to date. The Hawkeyes also drew 1.043 million views on Fox for their game against Indiana on Jan. 13.— Richard Deitsch

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Getting closer

Clark scored 38 points for her first career win at Maryland and needs just 66 points to break Plum’s record.

In Saturday night’s 93-85 victory in College Park, Clark hit seven 3-pointers and notched a season-high 12 assists while adding six rebounds.

‘Caitlin Cam’ follows Iowa star

Fox Sports will unveil a camera dedicated solely to Iowa women’s basketball player Caitlin Clark streamed exclusively on its TikTok channel (@CBBonFOX) during the Hawkeyes’ game at Maryland on Saturday night.

The “Caitlin Cam” will follow Caitlin Clark while she’s on offense and then show game action when Clark is on defense or is on the bench. The feed will feature natural sound rather than the broadcasters’ breakdowns. It’s the first time Fox has employed a camera focused only on one athlete or streamed live content on TikTok.

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Fox Sports’ ‘Caitlin Cam’ to follow Iowa star vs. Maryland

Bringing the scoring, and the joy

It’s just the simple arithmetic of being Caitlin Clark. Every quarter and every game of her historic career has added up to her being on the doorstep of becoming the greatest scorer in women’s NCAA basketball history.

Clark passed Missouri State’s Jackie Stiles for third place on the career scoring list in the first quarter, and after two layups in the second, she became the all-time leading women’s scorer in the Big Ten, passing Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell, who was also the second-leading all-time scorer in the college game. Now it’s Clark, who has 3,424 points.

There was no stoppage of action at Welsh-Ryan Arena — a road gym in geography only as the sold-out crowd of 7,039 was probably 80 percent Iowa fans — and no acknowledgment that she broke Mitchell’s conference record. Not even a sustained murmur from a crowd of fans who waited in line for hours to get in.

“Honestly,” Clark said, “I didn’t even know at what point it occurred.”

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

Big Ten record

On Wednesday at Northwestern, Clark moved into second place on the all-time list and set the Big Ten women’s basketball scoring record. She needed to score  “only” 14 points to pass former Ohio State star Kelsey Mitchell, and did so in the second quarter with driving layup.

Clark had moved into third place, jumping ahead of Jackie Stiles, with a 3-pointer (her sixth point) earlier in the game.

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Caitlin Clark sets Big Ten scoring record, climbs NCAA list

Another sellout

Road attendance for Iowa’s games has been astounding.

With a sold-out crowd of 7,039 anticipated at Northwestern, this will be by far the largest crowd Caitlin Clark has played in front of at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The first time she played here, on Jan. 9, 2021, there were no fans in the stands because of the pandemic as the Wildcats won, 77-67. (A game when Clark was held to a low, as you’ll read below.) The second time on Jan. 28, 2022, an announced attendance of just 1,578  showed up for Iowa’s 72-67 overtime win.

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How does Clark compare to the greats?

In a nearly empty arena in late November 2020, Caitlin Clark shot her first college 3-pointer. Time was ticking down in the first quarter of the Hawkeyes’ matchup against Northern Iowa. Clark forced a steal at midcourt and weaved her way to the right wing. With two defenders around her, she rose up. Her attempt was blocked.

That didn’t discourage her.

Now a senior, Clark is perhaps the biggest star across both men’s and women’s college basketball. She’s made more than 400 3-pointers throughout her college career and re-written the record book — at Iowa and nationally. “We see it every single day in practice, she hits one (shot) that amazes you or makes one pass that makes your jaw kind of drop,” Iowa assistant Abby Stamp says.

Clark passes with pin-point accuracy. Teammates and coaches alike laud her work ethic and improved leadership skills. But it’s Clark’s 3-point shooting which often immediately jumps out to viewers. She has been compared to some other recent greats in the basketball world — Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Milwaukee Bucks guard Damian Lillard and New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, to name a few. But how does Clark actually stack up when compared to such sharp-shooters?

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Their lights stay green: Comparing the shooting prowess of Caitlin, Steph, Dame and Sabrina

Logo woman

There’s no denying Clark’s appeal isn’t just in the numbers. Her knack for hitting clutch shots is only rivaled by her ability to hit deep shots. Way deep.

She’s a walking highlight reel, and her logo 3s often have made her the talk of college sports. Which is your favorite?

Will Clark return to Iowa? Or go to the WNBA?

Even when Clark inevitably sets the scoring record, she could have a whole other year to add to it. (Of course, four-year vs. five-year records will need to be taken into context.)

Clark, like other seniors, has an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic. Or she could leave Iowa to go pro — she’s expected to be the No. 1 pick in April’s WNBA Draft. She said in early October that she would treat this season as if it was her last, but athletes have been known to change their minds.

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The WNBA and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association had agreed on an opt-in process for NCAA players who are eligible for the draft but could also return to school. If Clark and the Hawkeyes were to make a second consecutive Final Four in early April, Clark would presumably have 48 hours following the conclusion of their final game to renounce her remaining eligibility and declare for the draft.

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Will Caitlin Clark go pro? A WNBA Draft Lottery explainer

A no-brainer selection

Of a possible 40 points for The Athletic’s midseason All-America team votes, only one player received the highest total. You guessed it.

Clark was the first-place choice among all four voters, an indication of to whom — unless there’s a dramatic turn of events — the national Player of the Year trophy will be handed. One trivia-like stat that stood out to our voters? Clark has hit more 3s than nearly half of all Division I teams.

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Caitlin Clark is a no-brainer for our midseason All-America team. Who else was picked?

The tough life of Iowa’s male scout team players

It’s a little after 11 a.m. on an unnervingly cold December day, and Isaac Prewitt exhales. Hands on hips, cheeks puffed out, the whole deal. His morning had been relatively easy for a while: Play dummy defense against pick-and-rolls; needle his friend about an incoming shipment of Gatorade Fit drinks; run some zone offense. A graduate student, whiling away winter break in a gym, doing a job that’s never work.

For the last few minutes, though, his job stinks.

Because his job is Caitlin Clark.

He wears a blue scout-team pinnie and pursues his pal with the Gatorade hook-up during an Iowa women’s basketball practice, slaloming around bodies trying to bump him off course, doing what he can to prevent a generationally gifted scorer from, well, scoring. At one point, Prewitt challenges a Clark 3-pointer so aggressively that his fingers interlock with Clark’s on her follow-through. She makes it anyway. Prewitt laughs.

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Male practice players have been around women’s basketball for at least a half-century, mimicking the opposition’s schemes and personnel. They’re generally in the gym to help, not to win, often getting nothing except cardio for their effort. But unfair fights are one thing. How about a 6-foot-4 Stanford forward with an impossible wingspan and deceptive speed? A teenage prodigy at USC with a bottomless bag of answers? The Iowa guard who might score more points than any player in college ever has?

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The men who practice against Caitlin Clark can’t stop her either

(Illustration and data visuals: John Bradford / The Athletic; Photos of Kelsey Plum and Caitlin Clark: Tony Quinn/ Getty, Rich Schultz / Icon Sportswire)

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