Iowa freshman Caitlin Clark lived up to Sue Bird's billing during the Hawkeyes' first-round NCAA tournament win on Sunday.
Clark scored 23 points and had seven rebounds and seven assists in No. 5 seed Iowa's 87-72 win over No. 12 Central Michigan. And during that great performance, ESPN played a clip of an interview with longtime WNBA superstar Sue Bird complimenting Clark's game.
"To me, she's the most exciting player in college basketball right now," Bird told ESPN's Holly Rowe. "I'm always like 'Oh, Iowa's on? Let me turn this on.'"
"To me, she's the most exciting player in college basketball right now." -Sue Bird on Caitlin Clark
That's some high praise from the 🐐🐐🐐 for the @IowaWBB freshman. Frankly, if you haven't watched @CaitlinClark22 and the Hawks, you're missing out. LISTEN TO SUE BIRD. #Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/JAHAxR2ExZ
— Grant Becker (@GBeckTV) March 21, 2021
After the game, Clark was asked about the praise she received from Bird.
"That makes me a little star-struck in a way," Clark said. "Sue Bird was one of those players that I grew up watching. I actually went and saw her play when she played against the Minnesota Lynx. She’s somebody I grew up watching modeling my game after.
"To have someone like her say that about me it means a lot. That’s one of the biggest compliments you can receive.”
Clark averages nearly 27 points per game
Clark’s 23-point performance was over three points shy of her season average. Clark entered Sunday’s game averaging 26.7 points per game on 48% shooting. She was 8-of-16 from the field on Sunday and was also 3-of-8 from the 3-point line.
Clark has averaged seven points more per game than star UConn freshman Paige Bueckers and currently leads the country in points per game. If she ends the season as the leading scorer she'll be the first freshman to be the top scorer in women's college basketball since Elena Delle Donne did so as a freshman at Delaware in 2009-10.
Delle Donne also averaged 26.7 points per game in her freshman season. Can Clark eclipse that? She'll likely have to push Iowa deep into the tournament to have a chance.
After winning by 15 on Sunday, Iowa will play No. 4 Kentucky in the second round of the River Walk Region on Tuesday. The Wildcats beat Idaho State, 71-63, on Sunday.
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