Caitlin Clark Struggles as Indiana Fever Lose 102-66 to New York Liberty in First Home Game

The highly anticipated home opener for Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever turned into a night of frustration and a lopsided affair. A capacity crowd of 17,424 filled Gainbridge Fieldhouse, eager to witness the phenom’s first home game in a Fever uniform. However, the New York Liberty, last season’s Eastern Conference champions, had other plans.

Clark’s performance was a far cry from her collegiate dominance, as she mustered a mere nine points on a dismal 2-for-8 shooting night, including a 1-for-7 showing from beyond the arc. Despite her struggles, she managed to contribute seven rebounds and six assists, but her efforts were overshadowed by the Liberty’s relentless onslaught.

The reigning WNBA MVP, Breanna Stewart, put on a clinic, torching the Fever’s frontcourt with a game-high 31 points on an efficient 12-for-21 shooting display. Stewart’s dominance extended beyond scoring, as she also corralled 10 rebounds and dished out four assists, leaving Indiana’s defense in a perpetual state of bewilderment.

Sabrina Ionescu and Jonquel Jones added their own punches, combining for 28 points, 17 rebounds, and four assists, while Betnijah Laney-Hamilton chipped in 12 points. The Liberty’s bench also made its presence felt, contributing 22 points, with Kayla Thornton leading the charge with nine.

As the final buzzer sounded, the Liberty improved to 2-0, while the Fever slumped to 0-2, leaving Clark and her teammates searching for answers.

Clark’s Homecoming Turns Sour

The sell-out crowd, which included Iowa coaches Lisa Bluder and Jan Jensen, had high hopes for Clark’s homecoming. However, the former Hawkeye standout struggled to find her rhythm from the outset, scoring a paltry two points in the first half on 1-for-5 shooting, including a disappointing 0-for-4 from downtown. Clark’s woes were compounded by three turnovers, as she faced stifling defense from the Liberty’s Courtney Vandersloot and Ivana Dojkic.

While Clark contributed four rebounds and five assists in the opening half, her inability to find her shooting touch left the Fever’s offense in disarray and her off-ball movement ineffective. The third quarter provided a brief respite, with Clark tallying seven of her nine points, but the damage had already been done.

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Clark’s defensive struggles were equally concerning, as she racked up five personal fouls, seemingly hampering her aggressiveness on that end of the floor.

Aliyah Boston led the way for the Fever with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Katie Lou Samuelson chipped in 10 points, but their efforts were overshadowed by the Liberty’s dominance.

Troubling Start for the Rookie

Clark’s lackluster home debut followed a turbulent WNBA debut against the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday. While her 20-point outing appeared impressive on paper, her shooting numbers (5-for-15 from the field, 4-for-11 from deep) painted a different picture. The rookie’s night was marred by a staggering 10 turnovers – the most by any player in their WNBA debut – and a mere three assists, as she struggled to adapt to the speed, physicality, and size of her opponents.

Foul trouble also plagued Clark in her first game, as she picked up two quick fouls in the opening quarter, forcing her to the bench for a significant portion of the frame.

“Disappointed and nobody likes to lose, that’s how it is,” Clark said to reporters after the game, via The Associated Press. “Can’t beat yourself up too much about one game.”

While Clark’s words exuded resilience, her first two outings have undoubtedly presented a harsh reality check for the highly touted rookie.

Up next for Clark and the Fever is another matchup with the Liberty, this time on the road in New York on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on ABC, giving Clark another opportunity to silence her doubters and find her footing in the WNBA.

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