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Caitlin Clark scores 20 in 10-TO debut as Fever falls to Sun

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Caitlin Clark scored a team-high 20 points but committed 10 turnovers, the most in a career debut in WNBA history, as her Indiana Fever fell 92 -71 against the Connecticut Sun in its season opener Tuesday at Mohegan Sun. Arena.

Clark, the NCAA Division I all-time leading scorer and top pick in this year’s draft, was held scoreless in the first quarter and didn’t get on the board until 5:24 of the second.

“Disappointed and no one likes to lose, that’s how it is,” Clark said. “We can’t blame ourselves too much for just one game.”

The game had the hustle and energy of a playoff or finals game. Fans wearing Sun, Fever and even Iowa gear lined up to enter the arena more than 2 1/2 hours before start. The Sun distributed more than 170 media credentials, with ESPN’s “WNBA Countdown” desk stationed near the Fever bench and overflow media from near and far located in a skybox.

The crowd of 8,910 marked the Sun’s first sold-out home opener since 2003, their inaugural game in Connecticut.

Clark, who became the face of women’s basketball while a student at the University of Iowa, drew cheers from the crowd, including when she recovered the ball on the first end, when she scored her first official WNBA points (on a layup) and when she started from the 3-point arc.

But the Sun gave their fans plenty of reasons to make noise throughout the night, securing the lead four minutes later, jumping out to a 15-point lead late in the second and not allowing Indiana to get closer to five minutes. The loudest cheers were for 14-year veteran DeWanna Bonner when she was honored during a timeout for becoming the league’s fifth all-time leading scorer, and for Alyssa Thomas when she notched his 12th career triple-double (including playoffs) late in the fourth.

“To do it here tonight with this team and this group and this crowd made it even more special,” Bonner said of her progression up the WNBA career scoring list. “It was huge and my goal, I can check it off my list. Being in this league is hard, staying in this league is harder. To be on this list is amazing. Congratulations to me on that one.”

Reflecting Tuesday morning after filming, Clark said that while the outside world might think she would do amazing things in the WNBA right away, she understands it might take her a while to get there. That learning curve was evident Tuesday: Clark’s 10 turnovers, against a Connecticut team known for its defense and physicality, were the most in a game in Fever history. Cynthia Cooper held the previous record for turnovers in a career debut with eight in June 1997 during the WNBA’s inaugural season.

“Some unusual things, like picking up the ball and moving it, dribbling it off my foot,” Clark said. “A few things that, you know, need to be sharper.”

DiJonai Carrington, a fourth-year guard from Stanford and Baylor, handed the primary assignment to Clark and locked it down for most of the evening. Carrington held Clark to 2-of-10 shooting and forced eight turnovers while she was the primary defender. Thomas, a perennial candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, also bothered Clark at times and committed several fouls on the rookie.

Clark began to find more rhythm from the 3-point arc later in the game, knocking down three of his four treys in the second half. She finished 5 of 15 from the field, including 4 of 11 from 3, adding 3 assists and 2 steals.

Connecticut came through on the other end, thanks to Carrington and Tyasha Harris combining for 32 points and Bonner scoring a team-high 20. Two-time All-Star Brionna Jones made her official return to the league after having torn his right Achilles tendon last June. , scoring eight points in just under 20 minutes.

“Caitlin was able to give him some looks, knock them down. Our spacing wasn’t great,” Indiana coach Christie Sides said. “Connecticut came in and punched us in the mouth tonight. We’ll be in the gym tomorrow and watching a lot of video trying to figure out how not to turn the ball over 25 times.”

The Fever — who hope to end the league’s longest active playoff drought in seven seasons by the end of the year — have lost their home opener in 10 of the last 11 seasons, their only victory taking place in 2019.

Before a rematch against the Sun on Monday, Clark and the Fever will face the New York Liberty, runners-up in last year’s WNBA Finals, first in Indianapolis on Thursday and then in Brooklyn on Saturday.

“Our preseason game was great, doing it for real is going to be a lot of fun; it’s going to be loud,” Clark said. “Use the environment to our advantage.”

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News Source : www.espn.com

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