Caitlin Clark's picture-perfect outside shot a huge reason why she's become NCAA women's leading scorer



In the middle of the second quarter of Iowa’s 96-50 win over Wisconsin on Jan. 16, the Badgers turned the ball over and the broadcast began showing a highlight of an earlier possession. As the graphic spun off the screen to return to live play, Clark was already in the process of launching a logo 3-pointer that circled the rim and fell through. 

Perhaps you could blame production for not getting back in time, but such moments are a perfect reminder that Clark breaks all the rules. 

“It’s an adventure coaching Caitlin,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder told CBS Sports before the season. “Every single day in practice something crazy is going to happen. I mean, we’re going to get logo 3s, halfcourt 3s, and so it’s exciting to coach Caitlin because you really never know what’s going to happen.” 

On Thursday, Clark’s journey reached newfound heights when she scored a career-high 49 points in Iowa’s 106-89 win over Michigan to surpass Kelsey Plum and become the all-time leading scorer in NCAA women’s basketball history with 3,569 career points. 

She did so thanks in large part to her picture-perfect shot, honed from a young age when she was limited to form shooting around the basket because she didn’t have the strength to reach the rim from any further out. Now, Clark is a threat the second she crosses halfcourt, as she showed on her record-breaking shot Thursday. 

“I mean, she’s unbelievable,” Illinois coach Shauna Green said. “And so when you’re trying to game plan against someone like her — she can literally score from anywhere on the floor — and when you can do that, you’re really, really hard to guard.”

The women’s college 3-point line is 22 feet, 1¾ inches at its furthest point. As of Feb. 13, Clark was 72-of-180 (40%) from 25-30 feet this season, per CBB Analytics. If you only counted those long-range efforts, she would be tied for 17th in the country in attempts and tied for 39th in percentage. 

To find a true comparison for her ability to shoot from distance, you have to look to the NBA. But even there, just a few players can rival Clark for volume and efficiency. Of the three stars taking as many attempts from 25-30 feet as Clark, only Steph Curry is shooting a higher percentage. 

3-point attempts from 25-30 feet

Steph Curry

Golden State Warriors

9.4

42.6

Caitlin Clark

Iowa Hawkeyes

7.2

40.0

Luka Doncic

Dallas Mavericks

8.4

37.4

Donovan Mitchell

Cleveland Cavaliers

7.3

35.0

For her career, 1,461 of Clark’s points have come from the 3-point line, or just over 40%. The 487 3s she’s made in three-plus seasons in Iowa City rank third all-time, 50 behind Taylor Robertson. Depending on how far the Hawkeyes advance in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, and how hot Clark gets from downtown, she could claim that record before the end of the season as well. 

Through the first 26 games of her senior campaign, Clark is shooting 39.9% on a staggering 13.5 3-point attempts per game, which leads the country by a wide margin. So do her total makes (140) and attempts (351). Syracuse guard Dyaisha Fair, who is second in both categories, is 88-of-227 this season. 

Those numbers as a pure spot up shooter would be impressive, but Clark, who operates as Iowa’s point guard, is taking about half of her attempts off the bounce. In fact, as of Feb. 13, she’s been slightly better on those shots, per Synergy Sports, which is the inverse of most players’ splits. 

Clark’s 3-point splits

Catch-and-shoot

169

38.5

Off-the-dribble

164

39.6

“The way people guard me, they would just be physical and just push me off the line, make it harder to get to my spots,” Clark told Sue Bird during a recent appearance on “Sue’s Places.” “So, I kind of had to learn to create off the bounce a lot, and now I feel like I’m almost more comfortable having the ball in my hands and shooting off the dribble rather than a catch-and-shoot 3.” 

Bluder would prefer if that ratio was a bit different. “What I’ve been trying to work on with her is getting her away from the ball and reading screens,” Bluder said after Iowa’s win over Wisconsin on Dec. 10. “Because when she gets her feet set coming off a screen, it’s money, it’s just the most beautiful thing.” But Clark’s ability to create her own shot whenever and wherever is what sets her apart, and will serve her well at the next level. 

Clark will almost certainly be selected No. 1 overall if she enters the 2024 WNBA Draft in April, but she’s eligible to return to Iowa for a fifth season through the COVID eligibility extension. Regardless of where she continues her career, she’ll be the best shooter on the floor. 

“Her confidence, obviously, you can’t help but watch when she plays,” Steph Curry said earlier this month. “Where she’s shooting from, the range, the confidence, the flair. She’s a performer.”





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