Kaitlin Clark’s unstoppable and record-setting game propels Iowa to new heights

If it’s in the building, it’s open.

And on Friday night, in the most interesting college basketball game of the year and the most anticipated women’s college basketball game of the decade, everyone will know that Kaitlin Clark is in the building.

With his mix of audacious shot-making, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it passing and unattainable showmanship, Clarke has captivated hoops casuals and experts to apt comparisons and new superlatives.

Now the 6-foot junior point guard will attempt perhaps his most bizarre feat yet: to lead Iowa past South Carolina, the undefeated defending national champions, in the Final Four in Dallas (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Wally Juggernaut.

It will be difficult for Clark to top the historic 40-point triple-double (41 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) he had in last weekend’s Elite Eight win over Louisville — especially against No. 1 South Carolina. 1st rank defense.

But Clark, 21, has made a collegiate career of topping himself: Committed confidently to Iowa, over the traditional blue bloods from his West Des Moines home; leading the nation in points per game as a freshman; leading the nation in points and assists in the second game; This season, averaging 27.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists led the Hawkeyes to their first Final Four in 30 years while claiming consensus national player of the year honors.


Caitlin Clarke talks to members of the media after accepting the Player of the Year award.
USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

“When you combine his edge with his skill and his IQ, it elevates him over the top and makes him rare,” fan and fellow slender-scoring superstar Kevin Durant told The Washington Post this month. “She can do everything on the floor, score from any angle, shoot deep 3s and create for her teammates. But she has that feisty side. She has that dog, as people Call her. She’s trying to do everything for her team because she can’t afford to lose.”

An upset win—the Hawkeyes are 11.5-point underdogs—will take all three of those qualities combined to turn Clarke into a crossover phenomenon.

scoring

Parallels come to mind as quickly as Clarke accelerates, pulls up and splashes the 3 from the logo: Steph Curry.

“No shot is a bad shot when you can shoot it as well as she can,” Curry told ESPN. “When you watch her play, she adds an element of surprise that you can’t really game-plan for. Because when she crosses half court, she’s in her range, in that sense it’s very is overlooked.

Clark is shooting 39.2 percent on 3-pointers this season.

On 190 attempts from more than 25 feet (the women’s 3-point line is 22 feet, 1¾ inches), she’s shooting even better — 42.1 percent, according to CBB Analytics.

According to the New York Times, Clark said, “When I’m in the gym, I’m shooting Transition 3s, a little bit back down the line and on the go.” “They’re not just shots that I get and put in the game. They’re shots that I’m constantly working on and trying to hone.”


Kaitlin Clark shoots the ball against the Louisville Cardinals during the third quarter in the Elite Eight round.
Kaitlin Clark shoots the ball against the Louisville Cardinals during the third quarter in the Elite Eight round.
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the passing

Clarke’s passing acumen is sometimes overshadowed by his scoring highlights.

But she led the nation in assists for the second straight season and became the first Division I player of any gender to record more than 900 points and 300 assists in a season.

Clark said, “There’s always the reaction that I take too many shots or I’m a ball hog.” “My support numbers also speak for themselves. I’m scoring I’m facilitating I’m leading

She has mastered the pick-and-roll with center Monica Cizzinano, and delivers hit-ahead and cross-court passes with fastball velocity.

With Clarke pulling the strings, the Hawkeyes lead the nation with a .511 field-goal percentage.


Caitlin Clark reacts in the second half against the Louisville Cardinals at Climate Pledge Arena.
Caitlin Clark reacts in the second half against the Louisville Cardinals at Climate Pledge Arena.
usa today sports

It helps that the transfer-free Iowa starting lineup has created unusual stability and cohesion: Clark has started 90 games alongside the same senior quartet of Cizinano, Gabby Marshall, Kate Martin and McKenna Warnock.

attitude

An important part of Clarke’s rise — her appeal, really — is how she is crumbling (outdated) notions of how female players act and act on the court.

She beats her chest, barks at the referee and throws eggs at the crowd.

It’s part of the show.

In the Elite Eight, for example, he was caught telling Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith, “You’re down 15 points. Shut up,” and followed up with John Cena’s signature “You can’t see me” hand gesture. punctuated the drama (“Even if they can see you…they can’t protect you!” tweeted the WWE star).

“A lot of people are comparing her to Steph Curry because she can hit hard shots. She can hit deep, logo 3.” But I think a better comparison is if Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi had a child Was, so this is Caitlin Clarke.

“…she has these moments of composure and running the offense, she’s got a super-high court IQ to know when the play is there, and she really reminds me of Sue Bird. … But Then she pairs it with a — can I talk s—t — in your face, fist-pumping, swaggleous vibe. … She’s not afraid of the moment, she loves the moment, and that really makes me Diana Taurasi. And a reminder of his ability to score from anywhere, score in lots of different ways, then add flavor and competitive fire and juice.

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