Caitlin Clark makes her WNBA regular season debut with the Indiana Fever | CAMR

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — The Caitlin Clark era in the WNBA has officially begun, although it got off to a slow start.

Clark went scoreless for nearly the first 15 minutes before feeling more comfortable and finishing with 20 points in the Indiana Fever’s 92-71 loss to the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night.

He missed his first four shots before finally get on the board midway through the second half. The NCAA Division I all-time scoring leader stole the ball around the foul line and drove the length of the court before laying the ball down. Clark had said before the game that she thought her first basket would come on a layup, since it was a “high percentage” shot.

Clark later added two free throws and hit a 3-pointer with 29.9 seconds left in the first half to finish the first 20 minutes with seven points, making two of his seven shot attempts.

She carried some of that momentum into the third quarter when she scored five of her points to try to rally the Fever, but it wasn’t enough.

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives against Connecticut Sun guard Rachel Banham (1) during the fourth quarter of a WNBA basketball game, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Uncasville, Connecticut (AP Photo/Jessica Hill).

Before his first basket, Clark struggled and got into foul trouble early. His first shot was a shot toward the basket that he bounced hard off the glass and into Aliyah Boston’s hands to return. Clark missed a runner in the lane, and then his 3-pointer from the left wing just went wide. He had an assist on a basket and threw a deft behind-the-back pass to his Boston teammate, but last season’s Rookie of the Year was penalized for a traffic violation.

Meanwhile, Clark received two fouls on the defensive end. The second drew loud boos from the sold-out crowd. The crowd gave the No. 1 draft pick a loud ovation when she was announced in the pregame introduction.

Before the game, Clark admitted she was eager to make her WNBA debut. It was one of four league opening night games that kicked off the WNBA’s 28th season. New York, runners-up in the WNBA Finals, visited Washington to start the evening.

She sat most of the day in the hotel and had to wait to get on the court when her team arrived almost 2:30 hours before kickoff.

“I just want to go out and play,” he said. “I had a lot of time to sit and think about it. Still this is exciting. This is fun. … There’s just a different buzz in the air.”

Even before playing in a WNBA game, Clark made her mark on the professional level. The league’s draft had a record audience and her No. 22 Indiana Fever jerseys have been flying off the shelves. There were hundreds of fans walking around the arena wearing Clark t-shirts and T-shirts.

Three WNBA teams have already moved their games to larger stadiums to meet the demand for tickets to see them play. Their debut in Connecticut is sold out – the first sellout for the Sun in a season opener since they played their inaugural game at Mohegan Sun Arena in 2003 after moving from Orlando. There is also a huge media turnout with almost four times more credentials issued for this game than for a normal Sun contest.

Clark and his teammates took the court for a morning shoot session in the empty arena. He later said that he planned to watch more movies during the day in his hotel room.

“I don’t feel nervous or really anxious,” she said. “I think I’m more excited than anything and I just accept it.”

Clark said he won’t focus too much on his game in his first game.

“If something isn’t perfect, my life won’t end,” he said. “If we lose the game tonight, my life won’t end. “I’ll just learn from it and come back on Thursday and try to help us win.”

This was the second sold-out crowd Clark played in front of in her young WNBA career. Her preseason game in Dallas was also sold out. More than 13,000 fans also attended her only preseason home game.

Clark’s home debut will be Thursday, when the Fever host the New York Liberty.