Your Home Your story reservation Caitlin Clark struggles in the opener. She needs time to adjust to WNBA.

Caitlin Clark struggles in the opener. She needs time to adjust to WNBA.

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  • Caitlin Clark scored 20 points in her official Fever debut – the second-most debut points in franchise history.
  • Clark went 4-of-11 from beyond the arc on Tuesday, marking a new Fever debut record for three-pointers.
  • The Sun forced Clark to turn the ball over 10 times, which was the most in a debut game in WNBA history.

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Ahead of the Indiana Fever’s season opener against Connecticut, Caitlin Clark pondered one detail: How was she going to score her first basket?

It’s not something she has complete control over; she has to make the best shot available, and she always hopes it goes in. But in a perfect world, she wouldn’t repeat her long-range three-point shot that broke the Division I women’s basketball scoring record.

Instead, she wanted to go for a classic layout.

“What I’ve been thinking about is it would be nice to get a layup as my first basket,” Clark said before the game. “Why not get a high percentage to start with it, right?”

As fate would have it, that’s what happened. About halfway through the second quarter, Clark was scoreless. She then stole the ball at midcourt and raced down the field past Sun center DeWanna Bonner for a quick layup. That was two of the 20 points Clark scored in her official Fever debut – the second-most debut points in franchise history.

More: Caitlin Clark, Fever struggles with turnovers, mistakes in season opener vs. Sun

Throughout the preseason and season opener, Clark has shown that her scores translate from college play to the pros. She scored a team-high 21 in Indiana’s first preseason game against Dallas on May 3, and then 12 against Atlanta on May 9.

Her 3-point range is still on point, too — she went 4 of 11 from beyond the arc on Tuesday, marking a new Fever debut record for 3-pointers made.

“Caitlin was able to get some looks out there, and she was able to knock them down,” Fever coach Christie Sides said.

There were both good and bad aspects to her debut, which ended in a 92-71 Fever loss, and that’s par for the course for a newcomer who was playing with her college team just a month ago.

“Obviously I’m disappointed, and no one likes to lose, that’s the way it is,” Clark said after the game. “But I don’t think you can beat yourself too much in one game, and I don’t think it’s going to help this team… just learn from it and move on.”

One of the biggest transitions from college to the WNBA is the difference in physicality between the two leagues. Players won’t hesitate to make contact if it means they can get a basket, make a foul, or both. The Connecticut Sun are also one of the most physical teams in the league. The Sun committed two quick fouls on Clark in five minutes of play, forcing her to sit for most of the first quarter.

“It wasn’t the best start for me in the first half. I got into trouble and had to sit on the bench and try to get back into the game and get into the flow a little bit,” Clark said. “But it’s clear there’s too much turnover. That’s not going to get the job done. But there’s just a lot of things we can learn from.”

The Sun forced Clark to turn the ball over 10 times, which was the most in a debut game in WNBA history – breaking Cynthia Parker Dyke’s previous record of nine in 1997.

Some of it came down to physicality: the referees don’t call the game in the WNBA the same way they do in college, and players are allowed to roam.

Some of it also came down to small mistakes.

“Definitely the physicality, but I also think, like some uncharacteristic things, I pick the ball up and travel, I dribble off my foot, I pass it off to the inbound ball and turn it over,” Clark said. “So a few things you just know, you have to be sharper. Those are situations where you just give the other team the ball.”

More: How Suns guard DiJonai Carrington limited Caitlin Clark in the season opener

Finally, some of it came down to poor communication. Some of Clark’s turnovers came from double-team situations where she had no one to throw the ball to.

“We have to do a better job of getting the ball back,” Sides said. “We worked on that a few times this week, multiple times, just knowing that was probably what they were going to do…but we’ve got to do a better job of getting someone back on the ball.”

The Fever consists of a young core of Clark, Aliyah Boston, NaLyssa Smith and Kelsey Mitchell, all of whom have seven or less years of experience. Connecticut is anchored by DeWanna Bonner and Alyssa Thomas, both who have played in the league for more than a decade.

Bonner and Thomas have been playing together for years, while Clark and the rest of the Fever have been playing together for weeks.

Clark struggled with certain aspects of the season opener, and honestly, that was the likely scenario. Coming from her student days, she had less than three weeks to get involved and integrate herself into a completely new team. She has brought some habits that don’t work to the WNBA, and it will take some time for her to break those habits. Not to bring up the old cliché, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Clark will be fine; she just needs more time to adjust.

Follow IndyStar Fever Insider Chloe Peterson on X at @chloepeterson67.