Clark 39 points from scoring mark as Iowa wins

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Caitlin Clark moved to within 39 points of breaking the NCAA women’s basketball scoring record on Thursday — but for the first time in nearly a year, she didn’t lead the Iowa Hawkeyes in scoring.

Clark had 27 points and a season-high 15 assists, many of them to sophomore forward Hannah Stuelke, who had a career game in the No. 2 Hawkeyes’ 111-93 victory over Penn State. Stuelke scored 47 points on 17 of 20 shooting from the field. It is the program’s second-highest single-game total behind the 48 points of Megan Gustafson, now with the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, against Minnesota in 2018.

Stuelke’s total is one more than Clark’s career high of 46 points, set against Michigan in 2022. Asked if she minded Stuelke passing her on that list, Clark laughed and said, “Not at all. She can have it.”

Clark is on track to be on top of the NCAA list soon if all goes well. It could come as early as Sunday, when the Hawkeyes travel to face Nebraska at 1 p.m. ET. Clark has 11 games of 40 or more points in her career, three of them this season. Plus, the senior has scored at least 30 points in every career matchup with Nebraska.

Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said, in a perfect world, that it would be great for Clark to break the record in front of her home fans here at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Feb. 15 against Michigan. But if it comes Sunday at Nebraska, that’s fine, too. The wins are the most important thing for Clark and her team, who currently project as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Clark’s demeanor after Thursday’s game was the same as it has been throughout the record pursuit: Relaxed. She was displeased with her career-high 12 turnovers, but thrilled for Stuelke, and glad that Iowa stayed on track in its pursuit of the Big Ten title. Iowa, 22-2 overall, and No. 5 Ohio State are tied atop the league at 11-1.

“Tonight, I didn’t shoot the ball well, but Hannah Stuelke played really well,” Clark said. “My main focus is just on winning and having fun and enjoying these environments.”

Clark and Stuelke, whose previous career high was 22 points, are the only major conference teammates in women’s basketball to have 40-point games in the same season in the past 25 years.

“She just has a lot of confidence in me, and wants me to keep playing at my best,” Stuelke said of Clark, who jokingly told her younger teammate she now expects this from her every night. “I think my confidence is going to come up a lot. Now I can be more aggressive offensively. That’s exciting.”

The last time Clark was not the Hawkeyes’ top scorer was Feb. 12, 2023, when Molly Davis’ 17 points led the way in a blowout 111-57 win over Rutgers. Clark had 15 points that game. There was just one other game last season in which Clark was not Iowa’s the top scorer: Monika Czinano had 36 points in an overtime victory against Drake on Nov. 13, 2022.

Thursday ended Clark’s 33-game streak, dating back to last season, of leading both the Hawkeyes and their opponent in scoring. Clark’s reliability obviously is part of why she is this close to the NCAA record, but also one of the things Bluder most admires about her.

“There are so many things that impress everybody about Caitlin, but her consistency is off the charts,” Bluder said. “For her to do this day after day — sold-out arenas, chasing records — for her to be his consistent is incredible.”

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