Watching a 17-point lead drop to four in about four minutes could be quite unsettling for a college freshman. But when you’re the top ranked rookie in Division I women’s basketball, take a deep breath and trust your instincts. And your jump shot.
Point guard Caitlin Clark has lit scoreboards all season, and she did it again on Thursday with a career high of 39 points in the Iowa Hawkeyes‘ 88-81 victory in Nebraska. It was their third game in a row to hit the 30-point mark or better and their seventh game overall this season.
Clark did it efficiently, taking 12 of 18 shots from the field – six of them 3-pointers – while going 9-on-9 off the line. She also got close to her second triple double of the season, receiving 10 rebounds and seven assists. She was kept under 20 points only twice in 17 games for Iowa, which improved to 11-6 over the course of the season.
The Hawkeyes had seen comfortable margin by the end of the fourth quarter, which the Huskers quickly cut back. Clark potentially lost to ranked teams Ohio State and Indiana and panicked that he was going to get away. But she didn’t. She brandished a deep 3-hand that gave the Hawkeyes a seven-point pillow one minute and 18 seconds ahead. Then she walked 6v6 off the free-throw line in the last 31 seconds.
“I play my best basketball when I’m more patient and calm, and I did that tonight,” said Clark. “My shot just felt good tonight. By the end of the game I knew our attack had stagnated and we needed a big shot. That last 3-pointer … I just pulled it up and took it, I knew that I had to.
“I’m still learning and growing. I think tonight was a big improvement for me knowing which shots to take and which not.”
When you’re a goalscorer like Clark, there really aren’t a lot of bad shots out there. She averages 26.6 points, second in Division I after Anastasia Hayes, Junior Guard of Middle Tennessee, with 28.2 ppg. Clark, a 6-foot guard, is from West Des Moines, Iowa. she was the recruit No. 4 from the 2020 class of ESPN Hoopgurlz.
Clark comes from very athletic genes; 11 people in her extended family have participated in college sports, including her brother Blake, a sophomore soccer player in the state of Iowa. Clark came to Iowa in big shoes to fill up at point guard after Kathleen Doyle, Big Ten Player of the Year 2019, graduated and moved to the WNBA’s Indiana Fever.
“It’s hard to get into the Big Ten conference as a newbie, let alone point guard,” said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder. “She knew she would be asked a lot [because] Kathleen Doyle left. We had this discussion with her: “You will be thrown into the fire immediately.”
“I think she plays great and she appreciates the pressure. She doesn’t shy away from it.”