When it comes to Caitlin Clarke, new history always seems to be on the horizon. On Wednesday, it's a chance to set the Big Ten all-time scoring record and top the NCAA all-time scoring list.
Clark, who entered Iowa's game against Northwestern fourth on the NCAA all-time scoring list with 3,389 career points, needed five points to pass Jackie Stiles (Missouri State). Clark surpassed that mark Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State) advanced to second after a frame before the end of the first quarter, scoring her 3,403rd career point. That mark also sets the Big Ten all-time scoring record.
Clark trails Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum for the women's all-time scoring record (3,527 points). Pete Maravich, who played at LSU from 1967-68 to 1969-70, holds the all-time scoring record for men's and women's basketball with 3,667 career points.
“What I'm good at is the names I'm around,” Clark said. “They're guys that I grew up watching, especially Brittney Griner, Kelsey Mitchell, they're really great players, guys that still play our game at the highest level, guys that you watch day in and day out. So it's really special for me to be in the same area as them and, obviously, to do my thing. I have a lot of good teammates that have allowed me to.
When will Caitlin Clark break the women's college basketball record?
Wednesday's game sold out 7,039, the largest crowd Clark has ever played at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Jan. 9, 2021, the first time Clark played at Northwestern Arena, with no fans in the stands due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Wildcats won 77-67. The second time was on January 28, 2022, when just 1,578 people were announced for Iowa's 72–67 overtime victory.
“Obviously, I started with Covid-19 and it was just family, and now, every game I play is sold out,” Clark said. “So it's not something you ever take for granted. I think it's kind of crazy to yell my name. It's not something you're really used to.
“Knowing the number of Iowa fans in the Chicago area, this (game) was definitely one that was circled on my calendar. So I was really excited to come here, I love this gym and coach Joe (McKown). I have great respect for him. I think he's amazing. She is amazing for women's basketball. We have fought many good battles in this arena.
Through her Iowa career, Clark became the first Division I women's basketball player in NCAA history with a 40-point triple-double, 3,000 points, 750 rebounds and 750 assists. For the past 25 years.
Clark is averaging 32 points per game this season, adding 7.1 rebounds and 7.6 assists. Against Northwestern, Clark posted 35 points and 10 assists for his 54th career double-double. He finished 11-for-22 shooting, missing 9 of 12 3-pointers, but went 10-for-10 from the line. Clark was pulled with 4:25 left in the game.
No. 3 Iowa shut out Northwestern 110-74 to improve to 20-2 overall and 9-1 in the conference.
A look back at Clark's historic day
Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan had a famous logic: It's easy to score 32 points in a game because it's only eight points in a quarter. With little offensive aggression — just five shot attempts — Clark surpassed that math by two points on Wednesday.
Clark scored 10 in the first quarter with a pair of deep threes and four free throws as he neared the Big Ten scoring record. After a short layup to start the second quarter, he promptly scored on a layup. And less than 5 minutes into the first half, he broke the Big Ten scoring record with a layup.
But focused on his game Wednesday, there was no reaction to that happening in Welsh-Ryan Arena, which was mostly made up of Iowa fans.
Iowa fans began waiting in line for general admission seats at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The line to get in stretched down the street nearly three hours before tipoff at 7 p.m. CT. Northwestern has only two divisions with reserved seats for women's games, one being the upscale Wilson Club — so it created a logjam for a large crowd. (The Northwestern women's team averages 1,671 fans per game.)
When Clark arrived to warm up, he was greeted by a nearly full house, and fans booed as he was announced with the starters and headed to the bench at the end of the game.
Clark carries the basketball player vibe with him, but despite scoring 18 points, he didn't have a particularly memorable first half. He went 4-for-11 from the field, missing 5 of 7 3-point shots. She went 8-for-8 from the line, though people didn't line up for the better part of a chilly day to watch her hit free throws. It wasn't Clark's best shooting performance, but he did a good job of getting his teammates involved early and leading Iowa to a big win.
“I haven't shot it well since 3 o'clock tonight, and I shoot the ball well, so you have to have one of those nights here and there. I was a little short. So, you know, that happens. But I got to the free-throw line and hit all 10 of my free throws. This is what you have to do.” — John Greenberg, Chicago sports columnist
(Photo: Jim Dedman / USA Today)