Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark is fouled from behind by Connecticut Sun guard Tiffany Mitchell during her WNBA debut on Tuesday in Uncasville, Conn. Clark scored 20 points and the Fever lost 92-71. Jessica Hill/Associated Press

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The Caitlin Clark era in the WNBA has officially begun, although it got off to a slow start.

Clark went scoreless for nearly the first 15 minutes, before getting more comfortable and finishing with 20 points in the Indiana Fever’s 92-71 loss to the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night.

She missed her first four shots before finally getting on the board midway through the second period. The NCAA’s all-time Division I scoring leader stole the ball around the foul line and drove the length of the court before laying the ball in. Clark had said before the game that she thought her first basket would come on a layup since it was a “high-percentage” shot.

Clark later added two free throws and hit a 3-pointer with 29.9 seconds left in the first half to finish the opening 20 minutes with seven points, hitting two of her seven shot attempts.

She carried some of that momentum into the third quarter when she scored five of her points to try to rally the Fever, but it just wasn’t enough.

Before her first basket, Clark struggled and got into early foul trouble. Her first shot was a drive to the basket that bounced hard off the glass and into Aliyah Boston’s hands for a putback. Clark missed a runner in the lane, and then her 3 from the left wing just rimmed out. She did have an assist on one basket and threw a nifty behind-the-back pass to teammate Boston, but last season’s Rookie of the Year was called for a traveling violation.

Advertisement

Meanwhile, Clark was called for two fouls on the defensive end. The second one drew loud boos from the sellout crowd. The crowd gave the No. 1 pick in the draft a loud ovation when she was announced in the pregame introduction.

Before the game, Clark admitted she was eager for her WNBA debut. It was one of four games on the league’s opening night to tip-off the WNBA’s 28th season. New York, which was runner-up in the WNBA Finals, visited Washington to start the evening.

She sat around most of the day at the hotel and had to wait to get on the court when her team arrived nearly 2:30 hours before tipoff.

“I just want to get out there and play,” she said. “I got plenty of time to sit and think about it. Still this is exciting. This is fun. … There’s just a different buzz in the air.”

Even before playing a WNBA game, Clark has left her mark in the pros. The league’s draft had record viewership, and her No. 22 Indiana Fever jerseys have been flying off the shelves. There were hundreds of fans walking around the arena in Clark jerseys and t-shirts.

Three WNBA teams have already moved their games to bigger arenas to keep up with the demand for tickets to watch her play. Her debut in Connecticut is sold out – the first sellout for the Sun in a season opener since they played their inaugural game at Mohegan Sun Arena in 2003 after moving from Orlando. There’s also a huge media turnout with nearly four-times the number of credentials issued for this game than a normal Sun contest.

Advertisement

Clark and her teammates took the court in a morning shootaround at the empty arena. She said afterward that she planned to watch more film during the day in her hotel room.

“I don’t feel nervous or really anxious,” she said. “I think I’m just excited more than anything and just embracing it.”

Clark said she’s not going to get too caught up on her play in her first game.

“If something isn’t perfect, my life’s not going to end,” she said. “If, you know, we lose the game tonight, my life’s not going to end. I’m just going to learn from it and come back on Thursday and try to help us win.”

This was the second sold-out crowd Clark has played in front of in her extremely young WNBA career. Her preseason game in Dallas was sold out, too. More than 13,000 fans also turned up for her only home preseason game.

Clark’s home debut will be Thursday, when the Fever host the New York Liberty.

Advertisement

LIBERTY 85, MYSTICS 80: Jonquel Jones scored 25 points, Betnijah Laney-Hamilton added 20 and New York opened the season with a victory in Washington.

New York trailed 67-59 entering the fourth quarter before scoring 22 of the next 29 points, going ahead for good at 72-71 with 5:56 left on a basket by Laney-Hamilton. She also stole an inbounds pass and converted a layup to make it 79-74 with 3:30 remaining.

NOTES

EXPANSION: Call them the Golden State Valkyries.

The WNBA franchise that’s affiliated with the Golden State Warriors unveiled the team’s brand identity on Tuesday with the name and logo. The team that will start play in 2025 with games at Chase Center has already sold more than 7,500 season tickets.

“It’s a beautiful nod to the Golden State Warriors, but also is uniquely our own,” team president Jess Smith said. “What’s so incredibly powerful about it is first and foremost is what a valkyrie is. A valkyrie doesn’t act alone, it’s a group moving things forward. As we think through what we’re building here at Golden State, it’s on the court and off the court. To make the impossible, possible like the Bay Area does.”

Smith said she had seen all the comments from fans over the last few months who were really hoping that the Valkyries would be the team name.

“It’s been pretty constant and that’s really beautiful,” Smith said of the fan support. “This is the Bay’s team and to be able to give them what they are asking for and give it in the way we’re going to is phenomenal.”

The color scheme for the team will be Valkyrie purple.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.