As Caitlin Clark made history on the court, Iowa fans reveled in the thrill of a transcendent star

Once Caitlin Clark crossed halfcourt, everyone knew it was over. Receiving a pass from Gabbie Marshall along the left sideline, the star guard took just two dribbles before launching a shot from near the black Tigerhawk logo. As the ball soared through the air, the 15,000-plus at Carver-Hawkeye Arena drew a collective breath – a rare moment of silence for what had been a raucous pregame crowd.

With Clark needing just eight points to shatter former Washington star Kelsey Plum’s mark, the moment was bound to happen. But the ripple of the net a second later still sent shockwaves reverberating up the stands as fans threw up their arms in jubilation. The history they had hoped to see occurred just 2:16 into the contest, taking all of three shots and five offensive possessions.

“Well, I thought about [breaking the record] a couple possessions earlier, but I was a little tired and had to catch my breath,” Clark said with a smile in her postgame press conference.


Caitlin Clark passes Kelsey Plum to break NCAA Division I women’s all-time scoring record

The Iowa superstar notched the record-setting point in the first quarter of Iowa’s matchup vs. Michigan.

Along the Iowa bench, head coach Lisa Bluder turned to her team amidst the pandemonium, turning up her palms to the rafters in a shrug that seemed to suggest the inevitability of it all.

“I thought it was wonderful that she hits a logo three to put her over,” Bluder said. “I intended to call a timeout but it happened so fast I couldn’t get it out.”

In a span of 126 games over four seasons, Bluder’s recruit from West Des Moines was alone atop the record books, capping off a strenuous past two weeks and leaving fans agape in the presence of history

Kami Holmes has been an Iowa women’s basketball season-ticket holder for two seasons and made the hour and 10 minute drive from Chelsea, Iowa, to Iowa City Thursday with her two daughters, Alaina, 12, and Lily, 8. For her, every last mile was worth it.

“That was just goosebumps, like totally amazing,” Holmes said of Clark’s fateful shot. “It’s never felt like that at Carver for any sport, ever.”

Heading into the matchup against Michigan, Iowa was reeling from a heartbreaking loss on the road to Nebraska on February 11th. Clark missed all six of her shot attempts in the fourth quarter as the Cornhuskers ran a stifling box-and-one defense. A week before that, WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes questioned the legitimacy of Clark’s scoring numbers, incorrectly insinuating she had taken an extra year of eligibility.

But on Thursday night, those bumps in the road felt firmly in the rearview mirror as chants of “One more year” rained down on a confetti-covered Clark, dozens of cameras swarming her, casting her aglow in their flashes. It was a moment that might have been hard to envision in her pandemic-impacted freshman season at Iowa.

“I saw some clips of me playing the other day, and I was like, ‘Oh man, I was a lot different,’” Clark said. “My hair is a lot longer. I’m very, very, scrawny. I have absolutely no muscle definition. But a lot of my game is the exact same.”

Matt Zeitler, from Iowa’s Van Buren County, has been following Clark’s career since those early college days and even before then, when the Dowling Catholic High School graduate was playing on the AAU circuit. A father of three adult daughters, Zeitler kept his message simple.

“I told them this [record] is something that may never ever be broken, but the main thing is we win the ballgame,” he said with a laugh.

This team-first mentality doesn’t evade Clark, not even when a courtside sign at the arena displayed “National Caitlin Clark Day: 2-15-2024.” Just minutes following her historic shot, Clark told NBC Sports’ Caroline Pineda about her appreciation for her teammates (but was compelled to also mention that the team as whole has to play better defense).

Yet in those few seconds between her ear-splitting shot and Michigan’s inbounds pass, Clark couldn’t help but embrace the atmosphere she created, flexing her once-self-described “scrawny” arms and letting out a roar. Whether it was one of joy, relief, or both, is up to interpretation.

But for Alaina Holmes, a middle schooler and basketball player in attendance Thursday, its impact was undeniable. Clark would close out the contest with a career-best 49 points to go along with 13 assists and five rebounds. But for Holmes and many others, that 2:16 of play and this season in the spotlight extend Clark’s influence far beyond numbers in a box score.

“Just her confidence, how she can go out there and play in front of all those people and be fine with all the crowd, I think it really encourages her,” Holmes said. “I think that’s motivated me to be a lot more confident in the sport I play.”

About the Author

Matt McGowan is a sophomore at the University of Iowa and has been on the staff of The Daily Iowan, the university’s student newspaper, since his freshman year. With The Daily Iowan, Matt has covered women’s tennis, men’s wrestling, men’s basketball, and other sports. He has been on the football beat since the spring of 2023 and is the editor of The Daily Iowan’s Pregame edition, a weekly print solely devoted to football. Check out one of his favorite stories, a profile on Iowa center Logan Jones.