Before her highly anticipated WNBA debut on Tuesday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., Indiana Fever guard and No. 1 2024 draft pick Caitlin Clark told reporters that she didn’t envision her first WNBA points coming on one of her trademark long 3-pointers, shot from some logo on the court, far from the basket. “What I have thought about is, it would be nice to get a layup as my first basket,” Clark said in a press conference some 90 minutes before tip-off. “A high-percentage two. Start it off right.”

Clark, the all-time scoring leader in Division 1 college basketball, regardless of gender, smiled. Hundreds of her fans, clad in red Indiana Fever or University of Iowa No. 22 shirts, filed into the venue, giving the Connecticut Sun its first sellout for a season opener since 2003. She was preternaturally relaxed, with tipoff fast approaching.

But once the game—which Indiana lost, 92-71, to Connecticut—began, things didn’t follow Clark’s script. Her first shot, indeed, was a drive for a layup. But it bounced hard off the rim. Her second shot was a short, point-blank floater in the lane. She missed that too. For her third attempt, Clark pump-faked a Sun defender, who sailed past her. We saw her make that move a million times in college. But she missed again. Moments later, Clark was called for her second foul. It was a ticky-tack whistle. Any contact was minimal. No matter: Clark headed for the bench, still scoreless.

In the second quarter, shot four was a 27-foot bomb, off the dribble, going to her left. She missed again, and swung her arms in frustration. How could this early futility not be creeping into her head? The greatest scorer in college history, in her pro debut, couldn’t find a way to score.

Finally, about 15 minutes into her WNBA career, Clark stole the ball, dribbled down the right side of the court, hesitated for a nanosecond before blowing by the Connecticut defense for the first bucket of her WNBA career—indeed, an easy layup, that “high-percentage two.” Better late than never. The crowd roared.

Clark finished her first game with 20 points, and 10 turnovers—an auspicious double-double. “Too many turnovers,” Clark said afterwards. “That’s not going to get the job done.” Her 10 turnovers are an Indiana franchise record, and the most-ever in a WNBA career debut, though, it should be noted, she’s not the first star player to throw the ball to the other team too many times in her first WNBA game. had the prior record, with eight turnovers, according to Basketball Reference. She’s a four-time WNBA champ and Hall of Famer. had 7.

“They punched us in the mouth tonight,” said Indiana coach Carolyn Sides, her voice hoarse after the game from yelling over the sellout crowd. Caitlin agreed with that assessment. The Sun take pride in their defensive prowess, and Connecticut’s DiJonai Carrington, in particular, badgered Clark all night, and bothered her with her length. Wherever Clark dribbled, a double team seemed to greet her, forcing her to throw long, sometimes forced passes that were picked off. She traveled, uncharacteristically, at one point.

Despite her individual struggles, Clark showed flashes of her brilliance. She heated up in the second half, finishing the game with four three-pointers, on 4-11 shooting from range. Her shots kept the Fever within striking distance. She took the ball to the basket with confidence, making all six of her free-throw attempts. Later in the game, the Fever’s offensive attack flowed, with Clark passing and cutting and playing off her bigger teammates to find openings. If the Fever can keep that flow over four quarters, watch out.

It’s not like Connecticut shut Clark down outright. She still led her team with 20 points. Connecticut’s DeWanna Bonner also dropped 20 in the win.

And for a moment, it’s worth following the advice of Sides, the Fever coach. “Just make sure you take a moment to just take it in and enjoy what’s happening right now with women’s basketball and with the Fever,” she said before the game.

Indeed, on a typically ho-hum Tuesday night in May, a casino in southeastern Connecticut felt like the center of the sports universe. Several teachers from around New England, for example, played hooky on their students to trek to Uncasville and dish out $125, or more, for nosebleed seats, just to catch Clark’s debut. A pair of police officers drove up from the Philadelphia area for the game. Therese Manley, a retired school counselor from the Bronx now living in Danbury, Conn., brought her friend’s mother, an 88-year-old woman named Jean Hesse, to her first-ever WNBA game. “With history being made, I had to be here,” said Manley, who along with Hesse waited for the Mohegan Sun Arena doors to open.

Lyla Bodek, a second grader from Middleton, Mass., drove two hours with her dad to catch Clark. During warmups, she waved at the Fever rookie, holding a sign—sponsored by Dunkin’—with a note sketched in her handwriting. “Dear Caitlin Clark,” Bodek wrote. “You are my favorite WNBA player. I wanted to play basketball because of you. I’m feeling 22.” Like many kids at the game, she wore a red No. 22 Fever shirt.

Almost 200 media members were credentialed to cover the game, which was carried on ESPN2 and streamed on Disney+ and ESPN+. ESPN alone credentialed 75 people. According to StubHub, overall WNBA ticket demand is up 93%. Fans at Mohegan Sun also mentioned Angel Reese, Kamila Cardoso, and other young talents, along with Clark, for delivering buzz to the WNBA. April’s draft drew 2.4 million viewers, a 307% increase over last year. TickPick, an online marketplace, reported that it sold two times as many tickets for the Connecticut Sun home opener against the Fever than it had for the Sun all of last season. Another online marketplace, Vivid Seats, says that the Fever’s sold price has increased 183% compared to last season. And demand for the WNBA has increased across the board, as the average sold price has increased 119% over last year.

One Fever loss won’t halt this momentum. After the final whistle, Clark slapped fives with her teammates, and marched back to the locker room, head unbowed. The Fever are back at it on Thursday, as they host the New York Liberty. Indiana’s game on Saturday, against the Liberty in Brooklyn, will air on ABC. It’s sure to draw a huge network audience number (the New York Knicks-Indiana Pacers playoff game Tuesday night on TNT surely encroached on the Sun-Fever viewership).

“She’s captivated an audience in a way we haven’t seen a player do in a long time,” says Sun coach Stephanie Wright. “It’s moving the needle in a way that our sport has deserved. It’s moving the needle in a way that our players have deserved. We want to continue to take advantage of that.”