Angel Reese won't apologize to Caitlin Clark for flagrant foul, blames referees

 The second WNBA installment of Caitlin Clark vs. Angel Reese made as many headlines as the first.

Clark's Indiana Fever defeated Reese's Chicago Sky 88-83 on Sunday in a game that will be marked by the flagrant foul Reese committed against her college rival. Reese, the former LSU star who has been inextricably linked to former Iowa star Clark since their much-hyped matchup in the 2023 women's Final Four, delivered a hard blow to Clark's head as Clark drove to the basket in the third quarter. Officials upgraded the call to a flagrant foul 1 after a video review.

But Reese seemed to take exception to the ruling, describing it as merely "a basketball play" after the loss.

"I can't control the refs," she said. "They affected the game a lot tonight. ... I'm always going for the ball. But y'all going to play that clip 20 times before Monday."

Reese, who was called for five fouls, was visibly frustrated at times during the game. She was assessed a delay of game warning at one point in the fourth quarter after a prolonged argument with officials.

Asked about the physical play in the paint, where she was called for most of her fouls, Reese again turned her criticism toward the officiating.

"I think we went up really strong a lot of times and we didn't get a lot of calls," she said of herself and center Kamilla Cardoso. "And going back and looking at the film, I've seen a lot of calls that weren't made. I guess some people got a special whistle."

Clark had a similar reaction to the flagrant foul as Reese, saying, "It's just part of basketball. It is what it is. Trying to make a play on the ball, and get the block. I mean, it happens."

The foul came on the heels of a much-debated play in the first meeting between these teams on June 1, when Sky guard Chennedy Carter forcefully knocked Clark to the ground in a foul committed before the Fever had inbounded the ball. There was continued discussion about the foul in the days that followed, and WNBA officials subsequently upgraded the foul to a flagrant 1 the day after the game. Clark said during an in-game interview that day that the foul was "not a basketball play."

Clearly, Carter's foul was not forgotten by Sunday's game. Fever coach Christie Sides made a not-so-veiled reference to it when addressing how Reese's foul was handled.

"The right call was made at that moment -- flagrant 1," Sides said. "Just make the right call in those moments and we can move forward. But when you don't make the right call in those moments, that's when there's a problem. And they made the right call tonight."

After Reese's foul on Sunday, Clark made both of her free throws for two of her game-high 23 points. Clark added eight rebounds and nine assists in what was one of her best all-around performances of the season.

Clark has been on an up-and-down stretch of games, scoring in single digits in two of her previous four. That included a 3-for-11 shooting night in Thursday night's win over the Atlanta Dream. Meanwhile, Reese grabbed 13 rebounds, one off the career high she set on Friday night against Washington.

Potential for more drama awaits next Sunday when the teams meet for the third time this season, the first in Chicago.

Each matchup between Clark and Reese so far has been a huge draw, with both games sold out (more than 17,000 in attendance) and played before national television audiences.

"I think it's just the emotion and the passion that we play with," Clark said. "I think people love to see that. And I think that's maybe not something that was always appreciated in women's sports, and it should be. I think that's what makes it fun. We're competitors. That's the way the game should be. It's going to get a little feisty. It's going to get physical. But at the end of the day, both teams are just trying to win."

 Caitlin Clark and Aliyah Boston are finally getting in sync and, naturally, Indiana looks like it finally has a winning combination.

The rookie guard overcame yet another physically demanding challenge from Chicago by finishing with 23 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds while Boston produced her third consecutive double-double to lead the Fever to a 91-83 victory over the Sky on Sunday.

For Clark, it was her best day as a pro. She made 7 of 11 shots with three 3-pointers and celebrated the first back-to-back wins of her WNBA career.

"I think we're moving the ball and I think once we gave it up, people were getting it back in the half court," Clark said after committing a more manageable five turnovers in nearly 37 minutes. "I thought we were really good out of the ball-screen action, I thought we made some really good reads."

Boston, last year's WNBA Rookie of the Year, had 19 points and 14 rebounds while Kelsey Mitchell added 17 points and NaLyssa Smith had 15. The balanced scoring attack was a welcome change for the Fever (5-10), who now leads the Sky 2-0 in the season series.

But just like the first contest two weeks ago, Clark took a hard shot that knocked her to the ground, this time when college rival Angel Reese's right elbow hit Clark in the head.

The difference this time, unlike the Chennedy Carter play, was that the refs upgraded the foul to a flagrant 1 following a replay review, giving Clark two free throws and Indiana the next possession.

"The right call was made at that moment," Fever coach Christie Sides said. "Just make the right call in those moments, and we can move forward. But when we don't make the right call in those moments, that's when there's a problem, and they made the right call tonight."

Marina Mabrey scored 22 points to lead the Sky (4-9), who have lost four straight.

Carter, who hit the unsuspecting Clark with a hard foul on an inbound pass two weeks ago, had 18 points and four assists. League officials later upgraded Carter's foul to a flagrant 1.

Reese had 11 points, 13 rebounds and five assists while Kamilla Cardoso had 10 points and 10 rebounds Sunday.

Indiana built a 47-43 lead with a 12-6 run to close the first half. Marina Mabrey then scored eight points in a 12-4 spurt to open the second half to give the Sky a 55-51 lead.

The Fever charged back, taking a 58-57 lead on Clark's 3-pointer midway through the third, and never trailed again. They opened up a 68-64 lead before Chicago scored the final basket of the quarter.

Indiana sealed it with a sequence that included Clark's second 3 of the game, Boston's short jumper, Smith's layup, and two free throws from Clark over the final 3:06.

"She took the shots that were hers and knocked them down. She distributed the basketball," Sides said, referring to Clark. "She takes so much attention and she's able to find those open looks for her teammates. I mean, all around she was just really good."

Caitlin Clark's rookie season is just 15 games old, but the Indiana Fever guard has already experienced plenty of ups and downs. Clark is used to plaudits and intense press coverage for her playing style, but entering the WNBA has proven to be a whole new ballgame relative to her four-year stint in the NCAA.

Clark became embroiled in fresh controversy on Father's Day when she drew a flagrant foul on college rival Angel Reese during the Fever's 91-83 victory over the Chicago Sky. Both Clark and Reese have since dismissed the incident as simply a "basketball play," and Clark -- a steely but measured competitor will be more focused on augmenting a bit of history she made on Sunday.

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Clark achieves a WNBA first

Part of the reason why Clark has developed such a strong following and a devoted fanbase is because she has made the impossible (like breaking the NCAA scoring record) possible. The former Iowa Hawkeye has taken that excitement-inducing quality with her to Indiana, and on Sunday, she became the fastest player in WNBA history to record at least 200 total points, 75 total rebounds, and 75 total assists.

It took Clark 12 games to surpass the 200-point mark, and against Chicago, she added 23 more points to increase her season scoring average to 16.1 points per game. Clark is beginning to stuff the stat sheet in other ways, too -- she added nine assists and eight rebounds against the Sky, flirting with her first career triple-double and flashing an improved understanding with the Fever's other star, center Aliyah Boston (who finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds).

Taking 15 games to reach these statistical marks is the tip of the iceberg for Clark, whom many still expect will become a generation-defining superstar in the WNBA. Clark and her team seem to be improving each week -- after a 0-5 start, the Fever are now 5-10 and making a surprise push for one of the W's final playoff spots.

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