Caitlin Clark's all-time moment: Iowa star etches name into history with another classic performance

IOWA CITY, Iowa — One block away from the newly installed six-story banner honoring the city’s larger-than-life basketball superstar, a coffee shop owner watched the occasional patron walk around downtown’s Pedestrian Mall. A quiet morning of empty streets like this used to be reserved for Iowa football gamedays.

There was no football on Sunday, though the weather felt that way. It was women's basketball and another broken record that drew fans from the city and the whole country to raise the decibels at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Connor Moellenbeck, a season ticketholder and owner of Daydrink Coffee, could only marvel at the growth around the team over the past few years. And at the Nike-sponsored banner, where children were dutiful posing for photos, which screamed LeBron James-level status right here in Iowa City.

Caitlin Clark, the basketball superstar shooting from her banner over the downtown roofs, is in that realm now. James was among the celebrities who shouted her out on social media after she collected a third and final all-time collegiate scoring crown on Sunday by passing Pete Maravich for most points in NCAA Division I. The record was largely viewed as untouchable since he set it in 1970 at LSU.

“Honestly, if you would have told me that before my college career started, I would have laughed in your face and been like, 'No, you’re insane,'” Clark said of breaking the mark.

She had 35 points, nine assists and six rebounds in No. 6 Iowa's 93-83 win over No. 2 Ohio State. Clark's career total stands at 3,685 points, more than Maravich's 3,667 set in 1970. In mid-February, she passed Kelsey Plum for most points scored in NCAA Division I women's basketball. On Wednesday, she passed Lynette Woodard to hold the all-time women's record that includes AIAW players.

Heading into her final stretch of tournament games after declaring for the WNBA Draft, she is a scorer like no other ever seen in college basketball. And that's saying a whole lot.

“I’ve always been able to score the ball, but I don’t think people really understand how many amazing players have come before me and been able to score the ball and done it at such a high rate,” Clark said. “And do it for teams that are really, really good.”

Many of the 14,998 regulars filed in three hours before tip-off to be a part of ESPN’s “College GameDay” while others tailgated in parking lots to enjoy the unusual 60-degree March weather. They delivered a loud standing ovation when Clark’s free throws swished after a dead-ball foul to put her past Maravich heading into halftime. It was a flurry of realization when she took to the line, and the fans answered the call even if the celebration was more muted than her iconic logo 3 that broke Plum’s mark here last month. She entered the game needing 18 to break it and did it mostly with early triples.

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said she hopes the latest record does advance women’s sports, but “to me, you don’t have to break a man’s record to be recognized.”

“I admire Pistol Pete,” Bluder said, “but at the same time, I just don’t want that to be the bar for women’s athletics.”

If Clark’s charge toward the scoring records taught the millions riveted with her quest anything, it’s that passing a man’s record can mean something, but it doesn’t mean everything. Women’s basketball holds its own rich history that was on full display in past, present and future on Sunday.

Bluder and Iowa invited Woodard to attend the regular season finale one game after Clark broke the record she set in the late 1960s and early 1970s at Kansas.

“I have never had the honor of meeting Lynette Woodard until today and it was a real privilege,” Bluder said. “She was my role model growing up, one of mine.”

Bluder said bringing Woodard into the locker room was meaningful for her and the team. Woodard addressed the crowd during a timeout break and they rose to give her one of their louder ovations for the woman whose scoring record is ignored by the NCAA.

"I don't think Lynette Woodard would have this moment without Caitlin Clark," Woodard said on College GameDay, a nod in recognition to the way her forgotten record has been discussed over the past month even though it’s not in the NCAA record books.

Clark wouldn’t have this moment without any of those before her or her own role model, either. She grew up idolizing Maya Moore, who starred at Connecticut, the women’s basketball powerhouse Clark thought she’d play at when she was young. Moore won four WNBA championships in seven years with the Minnesota Lynx and at one point received a hug from an excited young fan years away from any scoring records.

“Maya Moore was the person that shook Caitlin's hand when Caitlin was little,” Bluder said. “And it's just that kind of pass it along, pass it along, right? Because now Caitlin's that person like Maya Moore that can do that for other people. So I love that.”

Moore and Clark hugged again on Sunday after a little shriek of childlike delight when Moore surprised Clark pre-game. Carver-Hawkeye gave one of its many standing ovations when Moore was introduced to the crowd late in the victory.

“The thing we've been saying all along is just give us a chance to be seen, and you'll like what you see," Moore said twice during the day, both to supportive cheers. When the TV viewership numbers come out, it will likely be another game of a million-plus watching Clark and the Hawkeyes.

The stars expanded beyond women’s basketball icons into cultural phenomenons. Rapper Travis Scott sat courtside and when he crossed the court at halftime to head into the tunnel, he cheered and clapped as Clark did a TV spot. Fans hanging off the tunnel were there for Clark, but they snapped Scott's photo, too. Baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan sat in seats he reportedly paid $7,000 for a party of five. The game was the hottest ticket in women’s basketball history, WNBA or college, and a few stood outside the gates that morning asking for extras.

There has been so much going on for Iowa and Clark that she said she’s having a tough time wrapping her head around it all. There are a maximum of nine games left in her collegiate career — maybe 300 more points on the all-time scoring record — and the Hawkeyes aren’t ready to be done.

They finished the afternoon honoring Clark and the rest of their seniors who brought Iowa to its first national championship game. Fans stayed to honor Kate Martin, Gabbie Marshall, Molly Davis and Sharon Goodman before heading out one last time this regular season. Time is dwindling.

“I'm just trying to soak in the moment,” Clark said. “A record is a record. I don't want that to be the reason people remember me. I hope people remember me for the way I played, the smile, my competitive fire. Sure, they can remember the wins, but also just like the fun me and my teammates had together.”

When Clark and her teammates gather, she said they do talk about the great wins, and Sunday was one of them.

"But it's all the other moments that mean the most to us and I think the same should go for everyone else," Clark said.

For so many watching on Sunday who remember when Woodard didn’t get her due, or how Moore’s success wasn’t the headline that Clark’s is, or how Iowa City wasn’t a women’s basketball town, they’ll now remember and talk about what it means that Clark broke the records they thought no one could.

Comments on this article