Iowa’s Caitlin Clark needs 8 points to set NCAA scoring record, after getting 31 in upset loss to Nebraska
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Caitlin Clark’s pursuit of the NCAA women’s career scoring record will continue for at least four more days after her 31-point performance in No. 2 Iowa’s 82-79 loss to Nebraska on Sunday.
The generational talent who has brought unprecedented attention to women’s basketball came into the game 39 points from passing Kelsey Plum’s total of 3,527 for Washington from 2013-17.
Clark went scoreless the last 12 1/2 minutes against Nebraska and now needs eight points to break the record. She likely will do it Thursday night in Iowa City against Michigan.
“It’s not at the front of my mind right now,” Clark said. “Really just getting better and getting back home and playing in front of our fans and executing the way we know we can execute is very important for this team. We’ll have two practices to get ready for that. Yeah, obviously it will be special. The biggest focus right now is just finding ways to grow and get better.”
Plum, who is with Team USA playing in an Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgium, offered premature congratulations to Clark on X, formerly known as Twitter. Plum corrected herself within minutes, writing “My bad next game.”
Fans began lining up in sub-freezing weather six hours before tipoff to enter Pinnacle Bank Arena. Clark has never scored fewer than 30 points in nine games against Nebraska, and many came with the hope they would see her make history.
The Huskers changed up their defenses on Clark. Callin Hake, Jaz Shelley and Kendall Moriarty took turns playing her straight up. They put double-teams on her up high and went to a box-and-one on her in the second half.
Clark pulled within single digits of the record when she made two free throws following a technical foul on Nebraska late in the third quarter. She didn’t score again.
Clark missed her final six shots from the field and finished 10 of 25 overall and 5 of 15 on 3-pointers.
The game had been sold out since early January, and sellers on the secondary ticket market were asking as much as $2,000 for a seat in the lower bowl late in the week.
Five preteen girls in an end zone section, each holding up a letter to spell out “CLARK,” started a “Caitlin Clark!” chant 90 minutes before tipoff.
Cheers increased in volume when Clark was first spotted in the tunnel from the locker room to the court. Fans leaning on the railing reached down in hopes of getting a hand slap as she came through. Next was a standing ovation when Clark, escorted by a security guard, stepped onto the court to begin shooting drills. She shot alone for five minutes before teammates joined her.
Kim Malone of Omaha showed up at about 8:15 a.m. carrying a sign reading, “Feels like a great day to drop a 40 piece. Let her cook. GOAT 22.”
“We’re here early because we love Caitlin Clark and what she’s done for women’s basketball,” Malone said. “I played Division II, my daughter plays, we love basketball. To watch all these people come, it’s just amazing.”
Malone said she admires the fearlessness with which Clark plays.
“She’s like the closest thing to Kobe Bryant for us, and we love Kobe,” she said. “Her work ethic and her pursuit to be the greatest is incredible, but then she doesn’t get lost in that. She includes everybody. Her passes are incredible. She’s one of a kind.”
Nick Ames of Lincoln was the first person waiting to enter the arena, arriving at 6:45 a.m. He came to root for Nebraska and wore a T-shirt saying, “I’m Kevin O’Hare’s Favorite Cousin.” O’Hare is Clark’s shooting coach.
“I’m here to heckle today because I do not want her to get that record and just thought the shirt and bringing up him would be something to get in her mind a little bit,” said Ames, adding that his mission was to get as close to the court as he could so she would see the shirt. “I’m a Husker fan. She can get it at home if she wants it.”
After Clark breaks the NCAA record, her next target will be the all-time major women’s college scoring record of 3,649 by Kansas’ Lynette Woodard from 1977-81. During Woodard’s era, women’s sports were governed by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.
TOP PHOTO: FILE – Iowa guard Caitlin Clark celebrates after making a 3-point basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Drake, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)