Caitlin Clark Struggles in Her WNBA Debut at Mohegan Sun Arena

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Edward Scimia

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Edward Scimia

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Last Updated 16th May 2024, 01:08 AM

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Caitlin Clark WNBA Debut at Mohegan Sun Arena

Basketball phenom Caitlin Clark made her WNBA debut last night, at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. She put on a show worthy of a rookie star. (Image: M. Anthony Nesmith/Associated Press/Alamy)

Perhaps no player has come into the WNBA with more hype and attention than Caitlin Clark, the Iowa Hawkeyes standout who was drafted No. 1 overall earlier this year by the Indiana Fever. But on her first night in the league, Clark learned that it will take some time before she can dominate at the professional level.

Clark scored 20 points but also committed 10 turnovers – the most ever for a player in their WNBA debut – as the Fever lost 92-71 to the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Tuesday night. 

Clark Generates Sellout Crowd for Mohegan Sun

Mohegan Sun certainly didn’t mind inviting Clark to their building. The excitement around her debut led to a sellout crowd of 8,910, the first home opener that sold out for the Sun since their inaugural game in 2003.

It took Clark a while to get going, as she didn’t score her first points until about five minutes into the second quarter. But the all-time leading scorer in NCAA women’s basketball history found her shot after that, finishing with 20 points on 5-for-15 shooting, including 4-for-11 from three-point range.

But the size and speed of her WNBA opponents presented new challenges for Clark. She managed just three assists and didn’t grab a single rebound as she struggled to avoid giving away the ball to the Sun. Her 10 turnovers also set a franchise record for the Fever. 

“She’s a rookie,” Indiana coach Christie Sides told reporters after the game. “This is the best league in the world. We’ve got to teach her. We’ve got to teach her what these games are going to look like for her every single night. And we’ve got to eliminate some of that pressure for her, and that’s on me.”

Given her college success – and, no doubt, her transcendental popularity – Clark came into the season as the third-favorite to win WNBA MVP in her rookie season. Experts said that was an almost impossible task – Candace Parker is the only WNBA player ever to win Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season, and did so in 2008 – but that didn’t stop the public from backing Clark, who reportedly received 11 times more bets for MVP than any other player at BetMGM. Clark closed at +1000 to win MVP at most sportsbooks. 

Fever Hope Clark Can Spark Franchise Turnaround

Clark never gave any indication that she expected to come in and dominate her more experienced competition, however. She acknowledged that she faced some unique challenges in her first WNBA game.

“I think definitely the physicality,” Clark said when reporters asked what she found difficult in Tuesday’s game. “I think also just like some uncharacteristic stuff. Like, I pick up the ball and travel, I dribble off my foot, I pass it on the inbound, I turn it over.”

This could be a long year for Clark, who is joining a Fever team that has been one of the least successful WNBA franchises over the past decade. Indiana hasn’t made the playoffs since 2016, and went just 13-27 last year – which was also the first time since 2019 they had won more than six games in a season.

But Clark says she’s not going to let one loss define her team’s season.

“I’m disappointed, and nobody likes to lose, but I don’t think you can beat yourself up too much about one game,” Clark told reporters. “I don’t think that’s going to help this team. Just learn from it and move on.”

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Edward Scimia
Edward Scimia
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Ed Scimia is a freelance writer who has been covering the gaming industry since 2008. He graduated from Syracuse University in 2003 with degrees in Magazine Journalism and Political Science. In his time as a freelancer, Ed has worked for About.com, Gambling.com, and Covers.com, among other sites. He has also authored multiple books and enjoys curling competitively, which has led to him creating curling-related content for his YouTube channel "Chess on Ice."

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