Caitlin Clark made her WNBA debut with the Indiana Fever on Friday night in front of a sold-out crowd in Dallas, scoring 21 points in a 79-76 preseason loss to the Dallas Wings.

The NCAA’s all-time leading scorer and No. 1 overall pick in last month’s draft, Clark looked like her usual self. Remember when Diana Taurasi said “reality is coming” and suggested Clark wouldn’t be able to dazzle quite the same way once she reached the WNBA? Her first basket was a deep triple. Clark scored 11 of Indiana’s first 19 points in her first-ever WNBA game. She had 16 points in the first half. And she had the NBA’s official Twitter account posting her highlights on a night NBA Playoffs action was happening.

Clark’s gravity is just as it was at Iowa.

But, to some degree, Taurasi was valid. Clark picked up her third and fourth fouls in quick success and sat for much of the third quarter — a scoreless frame for her that saw Dallas cut what was a 48-40 Indiana lead at the half to just 2 entering the fourth.

Then, with less than a minute to play in the fourth, Clark missed on a go-ahead 3-pointer and later had a would-be game-winning layup blocked with 26 seconds left. Dallas guard Arike Ogunbowale spoiled the Fever’s evening by scoring Dallas’ final 7 points and drilling a game-winning, stepback 3 with just 3 seconds remaining. Clark had time to get off a 25-footer at the buzzer but couldn’t find the net.

In her preseason debut, Clark finished with a game-high 21 points in 28 minutes. She shot 6-of-15 from the field, 5-of-13 from 3, and 4-of-5 from the free throw line. She added 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals but also turned the basketball over 5 times. Indiana outscored Dallas by 6 points when she was on the floor.

“My biggest goal coming into tonight was to continue to be myself, play aggressive,” Clark said afterward. “I thought that’s what I did. I think there’s a lot to be proud of.”

Clark said the physicality of the WNBA is going to be an adjustment. Fever coach Christie Sides said Clark asked for a sub at the end of the first because she was “completely gassed.” Defenses in the WNBA are going to hedge hard and double and beat her up.

“That’s how it’s going to be for her,” Sides said. “And so we’ve got to make sure we’re doing what we can to protect her. And so she’s able to go into fourth at the same level she is in the first.”

But it’s also just the preseason. Indiana is adjusting to the Clark experience just as Clark is adjusting to life in the WNBA. And in her first-ever game, she had a team that lost 27 of its 40 games last season neck-and-neck with a Dallas squad that made the WNBA Semifinals.

“I think there’s gonna be a lot to go back and look at and learn from, because a lot of it is kind of different from college,” Clark said. “Just from, you know, a technique standpoint or you know, scheme standpoint, and what we do is not always always going to be the same. So I think those are the biggest things, but I think overall, I just played really hard and that’s always something to be proud of.”

Indiana faces Atlanta at home on Thursday, May 9, in its final preseason game. The regular season begins on the road against the Connecticut Sun on May 14.

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