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Caitlin Clark plays in WNBA preseason debut after being drafted No. 1 by Indiana Fever

By Homero De la Fuente and Ben Morse, CNN

(CNN) — The excitement to watch Caitlin Clark play in the WNBA has been palpable. And tonight, that moment finally came.

The 22-year-old, who was selected earlier this month as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 WNBA draft by the Indiana Fever, scored a game-high 21 points in the team’s preseason game Friday against the Dallas Wings. The Fever went on to lose 79-76 in Arlington, Texas.

Clark, who had a historic NCAA season with the Iowa Hawkeyes, is at the forefront of a new wave of interest in women’s basketball and her arrival in the WNBA is a moment fans have been anticipating for some time now.

Clark dazzles in WNBA debut

Clark got off to a quick start in the sold-out game in College Park Center, drilling her first three-point attempt deep for her first bucket as a professional. The NCAA Division I’s all-time leading scorer wasn’t finished there, scoring a 28-foot three pointer shortly after as part of her three first-quarters buckets from deep.

Clark led all scorers at the end of the first half with 16 points, going 5 of 9 from the field and 4-for-8 from beyond the arc, along with two rebounds and an assist.

However, she struggled in the second half, dealing with foul trouble that kept her off the floor for a good portion of the third quarter. After returning with under six minutes left in the fourth, she failed to get back into rhythm, making one of her six attempts from the field, and finishing with a game-high five turnovers.

“I thought we played really hard,” Clark said after the game. “Just a great atmosphere for women’s basketball. I think it’s a good kickoff to the WNBA season. I think the way we play, you know there’s some things we could’ve executed a little better. I think we could’ve got into our offense a little bit better, the pace was amazing, that’s fun basketball people like to watch but overall, definitely what I expected.”

Although it was a closely fought contest, it was the Dallas Wings that escaped with the victory. With the game tied 76-76, Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale knocked down a step-back three-pointer to give Dallas the lead with three seconds left in the game.

Ogunbowale finished with 19 points, including nine points in the fourth quarter, to lift the Wings to the preseason victory. Meanwhile, undrafted rookie Jaelyn Brown led the Wings with 21 points and five rebounds in her preseason debut.

Clark had a chance to tie the game on a contested three but missed the three-point attempt from the corner at the buzzer.

“I think just the little things. Knowing when to push in transition, knowing when to slow up and run our offense a little bit better,” Clark added. “Overall our defense was pretty good, I thought we could’ve gotten better in some areas. I thought we could’ve passed the ball a little bit better but overall, you know a lot to learn from. These are good learning experiences for us, you know this doesn’t count. Go back and watch some film – film doesn’t lie – and learn from that.”

Hottest ticket in town

Ever since Clark’s name was officially thrown in for the WNBA draft, excitement around her move to the league has been growing.

Clark developed into an almost unstoppable scorer with Iowa, setting countless scoring records for both the men’s and women’s game during her time in college.

Such has been the eagerness to see her in the WNBA, ticket prices to watch the Fever more than doubled even before the draft and TickPick told CNN back in March that 83% of total tickets sold for the Fever’s upcoming season came after her announcement declaring for the draft. Indiana was widely predicted to take Clark with the first overall pick

After the almost inevitable No. 1 selection, that excitement has continued to blossom.

Her No. 22 Fever jerseys sold out within hours of going on sale, breaking the record for draft pick sales on draft night for any player in any sport, a Fanatics spokesperson told CNN; that record was subsequently days later broken by Caleb Williams after he was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 2024 NFL Draft.

The Dallas Wings announced earlier in April that tickets for the two teams’ preseason game have sold out with fans flocking to College Park Center to catch a glimpse of the former Hawkeye.

Clark has already been seen on court with her Fever teammates, with training camp kicking off recently around the league.

Social media clips from the Fever show Clark pulling out her trademark step-back three-pointers to the delight of her teammates, as well as winning the team’s first half-court challenge of the season.

Although she comes in with plenty of hype around her, the star rookie says she has been adjusting to a different pace of play in her early experiences of the pro game.

“It’s definitely different, but that’s what you expect when you start a new chapter of your life,” Clark told reporters. “It’s fast, a fast shot clock, but it fits my game well.

“It’s a fast pace, a lot faster than college, and you’ve got to learn quicker because you’ve got to get your mind on Friday.”

She laced up alongside All-Star center Aliyah Boston, the reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year and the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft.

The pair could form a scary proposition for opposing defenders as they look to improve on a 13–27 record from last season, with the team finishing 10th in the WNBA standings – last in the Eastern Conference – and missing the playoffs.

Boston – who averaged 14.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season – said she hopes to improve on a promising debut WNBA campaign.

“To be able to come in my second year and be able to hold off (defenders) a little bit longer, be able to finish through contact a little bit better than I did my rookie season, that’s a lot better,” Boston said.

Friday’s preseason game against the Wings marked the first of two for the Fever, with the second coming against the Atlanta Dream in Indianapolis on May 10.

Indiana tips off its regular season against the Connecticut Sun on May 14 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified one of the teams – the Dallas Wings – that played this game.

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