Advertisement

Clark lights up Williams Arena right from the start

Talk about a house divided. In section 107 at Williams Arena, Paul Seaton stood among his family Wednesday night, wearing a maroon Gophers pullover top. Everyone else in his group of seven?

Caitlin Clark black and gold, baby!

"I guess I probably stand out a little," Seaton said, laughing. "My granddaughter is such a big Iowa fan, and Caitlin fan. We had to be here."

Seaton made the trek from Foley, Minn., with that granddaughter — Whitney Kiel, who plays for the freshman girls' team at Foley High School — and other family members spanning three generations. They bought tickets months ago to see Clark and the Hawkeyes take on the Gophers, a basketball game that felt like something much, much bigger.

A sellout crowd of 14,625 came to see Clark's hoop magic, and perhaps history as she stood just 32 points short of the women's Division I career scoring record. Two hours before the game, as the sun set on Williams Arena, hundreds of students lined up in 18-degree cold to claim the general admission bleacher seats.

The line stretched from the middle of the building back to the main entrance, providing a colorful backdrop for TV crews doing live shots.

Though the arena doors didn't open until 6:30 p.m., fans packed the ticket lobby a half-hour early. They were orderly — this is Minnesota, after all — but they exuded a sense of anticipation and wonder, a jersey-clad army eager to see Clark in the flesh.

Little girls bounced on their toes, impatient to get to their seats. The smallest fans perched on their parents' shoulders and waved at TV cameras.

And the signs. So many signs.

"I drove from Canada to see the Hawkeyes."

"Caitlin Clark is 1% human and 99% GOAT."

"Caitlin is my hero."

During most of the pregame warmups, fans stood at their seats, straining to get a good look at Clark and snapping photos with their phones. On a night designated as a "maroon-out," with Gophers fans urged to wear that school color, swaths of Hawkeye black and gold ran through the stands.

On the game's first possession, Clark calmly hit a three-pointer. A roar — and a sea of hands — went up. Same on Iowa's next trip down the floor, when Clark made a layup, was fouled and hit a free throw.

Then another three, and another. Clark 12, Gophers 2, and the mania was in full swing.

Seaton's family had a sign-making party the night before the game. One banner bore the words "From The LOGO" — a reference to Clark's penchant for draining three-pointers from the edge of the center-court emblem — rendered in black and gold. The O's were cut out, so the kids could put their faces there.

Seaton held a more modest sign. On a sheet of 8x10 white paper, he had simply printed the words "Go Gophers."

"I wanted to support the home team," he said. "But this night is really about Caitlin."