Caitlin Clark gets leveled by a Breanna Stewart screen
Caitlin Clark gets leveled by a Breanna Stewart screen (Credit: )

Cole solid in season debut eyes higher pitch limit

NEW YORK -- — Caitlin Clark had the best game of her young professional career. It still wasn't enough for the Indiana Fever to come away with their first victory of the season. Breanna Stewart scored 24 points to lead a balanced New York offense as the Liberty beat Clark and the Fever 91-80 on Saturday in front of a sellout crowd of 17,735 at the Barclays Center. She finished with 22 points — her best total in the three games — to go with eight assists and six rebounds. She also had eight turnovers. “I thought I came out and just played harder and I think that’s really just my biggest focus going forward,” Clark said. “Just come out and compete and play hard. Our whole group did that.” With Clark playing in New York for the first time and the Liberty having their home opener, the game produced more than $2 million in ticket revenue, which is a WNBA record, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk about the team’s revenue. “I think the buzz and eyes that Caitlin has brought from Iowa now to the WNBA is going to be a collective win for all,” Stewart said. "When I first started in the league, some teams weren’t even making revenue. ... It’s a long time coming. We're happy to be at this point, but we're not satisfied.” It was the second consecutive meeting between the teams that finished off a home-and-home set. New York (3-0) won by 36 points on Thursday, but the Fever were more competitive in this one thanks to a strong effort by Clark. “It was better, but we shouldn't be happy,” Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell said. “We didn't lose by 40 so I'll take it.” The No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft came into the game averaging 14.5 points, 4.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds for the Fever (0-3). This was Clark’s first time playing in New York as Iowa never played in the city, nor did she when she was in high school or with her AAU team. “This arena is amazing. It’ll be fun for me to go around to all the new WNBA arenas and kind of check off the box,” Clark said. “This is certainly one that’s definitely up there. I know the crowd will be incredible tonight, so just enjoy it.” Clark drew a bunch of sports celebrities to the game including Billie Jean King, Sue Bird, Megan Rapinoe, Michelle Wie West and Dawn Staley. Actor Jason Sudeikis, who went to a few of Clark's games in college, also was in attendance. The NCAA Division I all-time leading scorer gave them a lot to watch in the first quarter. She looked comfortable scoring 10 points, hitting four of her five shots in the period. Clark, who only had nine points in the matchup between the teams on Thursday, also hit a logo 3-pointer just after a foul was called. The play went to review and it was deemed the shot came after the foul, so the deep 3 didn't count. Despite the strong opening effort, Indiana trailed 33-22 after one quarter and was down 57-37 at the half. New York shot 56% in the first half, including hitting 12 of 18 from behind the 3-point line. It didn't get much better in the second half, as the Liberty kept shooting well and hitting 3s. All five of New York's starters hit at least two 3-pointers in the game while the Liberty made 15. Indiana never got the game within single digits; however, Clark did wow the crowd by hitting two deep 3-pointers that drew oohs and aahs. UP NEXT Fever: Returns home to host the Connecticut Sun on Monday night. Liberty: Hosts Seattle on Monday night. ------ AP WNBA: https://apnews.com/hub/wnba-basketball