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Caitlin Clark makes first visit to Las Vegas as Aces host Fever

Updated May 25, 2024 - 4:38 pm

Caitlin Clark mania is coming to Las Vegas.

The Indiana Fever and the No. 1 pick of the 2024 WNBA draft are scheduled to face the defending champion Aces at 6 p.m. Saturday at Michelob Ultra Arena.

While the Aces moved their July 2 matchup with the Fever to T-Mobile Arena, Saturday’s game will be played at the Aces’ usual 12,000-seat capacity stadium.

It’s no secret that Clark is a big draw. Her first game in Las Vegas became the second-most in-demand game of the season on StubHub on Thursday. Her WNBA debut against the Connecticut Sun was the most-watched WNBA game on ESPN platforms ever (regular season or playoffs) with 2.1 million viewers.

Saturday’s game will be televised locally on the Silver State Sports & Entertainment Network (Cox channel 125).

The Aces have a large fan base of their own. The team’s season-opening win over the Mercury was part of the doubleheader that featured Clark’s debut, garnering a 5 percent increase in viewership from the previous year.

Season tickets to watch the back-to-back WNBA champions sold out in May for the first time in league history. The team made more history May 17, when the Aces announced they had sold out of an all-time WNBA-record 15 of their 20 home games.

Here’s everything you need to know about the first of the Aces’ four matchups with Clark and the Fever this season:

Tough schedule

The Fever finally earned their first win of the season Friday.

They were 0-5 before the 78-73 road victory against the Los Angeles Sparks, and now Saturday’s game marks the second night of a back-to-back. In the 11 days since the start of the season, the Fever will have played five road games, seven overall.

Clark was averaging 17.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 0.6 steals per game entering Friday. The 22-year-old was also leading the league in turnovers at 5.8 per game. She has led the Fever in scoring in every game other than a May 16 loss to the New York Liberty, which saw 2023 Rookie of the Year Aliyah Boston score 12 points for Indiana, and Friday, when Kelsey Mitchell scored 18.

Clark’s first few games have been against some of the top teams in the league — two against the Sun, whom the Aces defeated in the 2022 WNBA Finals, and two against the Liberty, whom the Aces beat in last year’s Finals.

The Aces (2-1) are coming off of their first defeat of the season, a 98-88 loss to the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday. Point guard Chelsea Gray (lower left leg injury) has yet to play this season, and the team is also struggling on defense, allowing opponents to make a WNBA-record 36 3-pointers through three games.

On Saturday, the Aces will be playing the last game of a four-game homestand to start the season. They’ll next embark on a three-game road trip, starting Wednesday at the Minnesota Lynx.

All 12 WNBA teams will play multiple back-to-backs and face long stretches on the road throughout this season to allow players to take a monthlong break to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

College connections

It was only two months ago that Clark became the all-time leading scorer for NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball. Through her four years at Iowa, she scored 3,951 points, besting former Louisiana State star “Pistol” Pete Maravich’s 3,667.

The Aces have two historic collegiate scorers of their own. Clark broke the women’s record of Kelsey Plum, who scored 3,527 points during her time at Washington before being taken with the first overall pick in the 2017 WNBA draft.

In the second round of this year’s draft, the Aces picked Syracuse guard Dyaisha Fair, who ranks third on the all-time NCAA women’s scoring list behind Clark and Plum with 3,403 points, one ahead of the Fever’s Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State). Fair has yet to make her WNBA debut.

Kate Martin, another one of the Aces’ 2024 draft selections, made her debut during the team’s second game of the season. Martin and Clark spent four years together as Hawkeyes, and Saturday could be the best friends’ first time going against each other as professionals.

Aces forward Megan Gustafson was also a star at Iowa. Her senior year was Martin’s redshirt freshman season. Gustafson and Martin told reporters Friday that some Iowa coaches would be present for Saturday’s game. It’s unclear if that includes Lisa Bluder, who recently retired as Iowa’s coach.

“To be on the same court with two other Hawkeyes, it’s pretty special,” Gustafson said. “It’s the WNBA, it’s the best of the best. And to be able to all be in WNBA uniforms at the same time, in the same place, it’s pretty crazy.”

Martin, Clark and Iowa defeated Boston and South Carolina in the 2023 Final Four before losing to Louisiana State in the national title game.

Boston and Aces star forward A’ja Wilson share an alma mater and were both coached by Dawn Staley. Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, led South Carolina to its first national championship in 2017.

South Carolina won the NCAA title again in April, defeating Martin, Clark and Iowa in the championship game to complete an undefeated season.

Contact Callie Lawson-Freeman at clawsonfreeman@reviewjournal.com. Follow @CallieJLaw on X.

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