Caitlin Clark breaks NCAA women's basketball all-time scoring record, sets single-game record as well

Caitlin Clark now holds the NCAA women's basketball scoring record. (Yahoo Sports/Bruno Rouby)
Caitlin Clark now holds the NCAA women's basketball scoring record. (Yahoo Sports/Bruno Rouby)

Caitlin Clark grew up watching the most prolific scorers in Division I women’s college basketball and now her name sits above them.

The Iowa superstar broke the all-time scoring record on Thursday. She passed former record-holder Kelsey Plum, who poured in 3,527 career points over 139 games at Washington from 2013-17.

“The coolest thing is just the names I get to be around,” Clark, 22, said when she took over No. 2 on the list on Jan. 31. “Those are people that I grew up watching, especially Kelsey Plum, Brittney Griner, Kelsey Mitchell. Those are really, really great players.”

Clark, a 6-foot senior point guard, eclipsed the all-time mark against Michigan in her 126th game. She needed just eight points Thursday and hit the record-breaking shot early in the first quarter against the Wolverines.

Clark pulled up from well beyond the 3-point line, drilling a deep shot from the left side to topple the historic mark. It was her third bucket and eighth point of the day as she pulled up in a manner befitting the moment and her persona, dropping it from well beyond logo distance.

It's worth looking at from multiple angles, so appreciate the greatness here as well:

Clark wasn't done breaking records there, either. The Iowa star would topple her own career-high of 46 late in the fourth quarter with a pull-up 3-pointer in the waning minutes to finish with 49 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in a 106-89 win.

The reigning Naismith and Wooden Award winner is averaging 32.1 points, seven rebounds and 8.3 assists per game. Her 47.3 field-goal percentage on an average of 22 attempts per game is a career high, and she’s hitting 39.3% from 3, near her freshman career-high on more attempts per game.

She holds the men’s and women’s record for most games scoring at least 30 points (51) over the past 25 years and scored at least 40 on 11 occasions. Four of those were against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. Only once in her career has she scored in single digits, and it was early in her freshman season. Clark has at least 20 points in every game this season.

It’s not only the numbers she’s putting up, it’s the way she’s doing it that has drawn awe. Her range feels limitless the way she can — and regularly does — pull up from the logo. Transition 3s quickly end opponents' hopes in close contests, whether it's early or in the final seconds. She’s also quick enough to speed past perimeter defenders and strong enough to power into and-ones at the basket. And her elite court vision provides highlight reels of assists few others might see, let alone deliver.

The national spotlight will remain. She is on pace to break the all-time DI men’s scoring record set by Pete Maravich within a month. And No. 2-ranked Iowa is a Final Four favorite that could win its first national championship in April.

Clark draws nation’s attention on record chase

National eyes keyed in on Clark’s chase for the record in December, when she became the 15th player in DI women’s history to score 3,000 points. She entered the season at 2,717, a number boosted by her historic back-to-back 40-point performances en route to the 2023 national championship game.

Three of the five most-watched women’s basketball games this season involve Iowa. An average 1.93 million watched last month’s overtime loss to Ohio State, which is the best for a game on any network since 2010, and 1.58 million watched the Maryland contest on Feb. 3.

Iowa fans sold out Carver-Hawkeye Arena through season ticket sales in August, and the Hawkeyes have played all but two road games to sold-out crowds.

Ticket sales for the potential record-breaking game at Nebraska began selling in the hundreds to thousands, similar to other road contests. Fans line up for hours before tip-off to enter arenas with signs and Clark gear, and wait hours afterward for autographs.

Clark in reach of Maravich’s scoring record

The focus now moves to the overall DI college record of 3,667 points scored by Pete Maravich. The LSU men’s basketball legend played three seasons from 1967-70. There was no 3-point line, no shot clock and freshmen couldn’t play varsity. Because of the stark difference in eras, Maravich’s son views them as very different records.

Clark is averaging a career-best 32.1 points per game after entering the season averaging 27.2 points in a consistent three-year career. At her current clip, she would pass Maravich within five games.

That would mean another potential record-breaker in the season finale at home against Ohio State on March 3. Clark scored 45 points in an overtime loss to the Buckeyes last month that sparked the hottest four-game scoring streak of her career. The matchup could determine the Big Ten regular-season title.

She could also overtake the DI women’s scoring average record for a season and a career. Mississippi Valley State’s Patricia Hoskins averaged 33.6 ppg in 1989 and 28.4 ppg from 1985-89. She played two seasons in which 3-pointers were included in statistics. Clark’s career average is 28.2 ppg as of Feb. 12 and her 38.1% mark from beyond the arc is a few makes away from Mitchell’s career record of 38.6%.

Iowa will likely make deep runs in both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, where the Hawkeyes are projected as a No. 1 seed. Reaching each of those title games would extend the Hawkeyes’ season by nine games (three for Big Ten, six for NCAA).

Clark could also opt to stay a fifth season under the COVID-19 eligibility waiver. If she opts to leave and enter the WNBA Draft, she would likely be the No. 1 overall pick to the Indiana Fever a week after the NCAA championship game is played in Cleveland.