Angel Reese defends flagrant foul against Caitlin Clark as ‘basketball play,’ criticizes officiating

Angel Reese defended her flagrant foul against Caitlin Clark as a “basketball play” and took issue with the officiating after Sunday’s game added another chapter to the rivalry between the touted rookies.

Reese was assessed a flagrant 1 after her swipe struck a driving, airborne Clarke in the head during the third quarter of the Indiana Fever’s 91-83 win over the Chicago Sky.

“I can’t control the refs,” said Reese, whom the Sky drafted No. 7 overall in April. “They affected the game, obviously, a lot tonight.

“I’m always going for the ball,” she continued. “But y’all are going to play that clip, what, 20 times before Monday?”

The flagrant was one of five fouls assessed to Reese, who shook her head from the bench after a video review led to the call being upgraded from a common foul.

“I think we went up really strong a lot of times and we didn’t get a lot of calls,” Reese said. “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.”

The fouls compounded a frustrating day for Reese, who finished with 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting in what was the Sky’s fourth consecutive loss.

“It’s just part of basketball,” Clark said of Reese’s flagrant. “It is what it is. Trying to make a play on the ball and get the block. I mean, it happens.”

Reese’s foul occurred just over two weeks after Sky teammate Chennedy Carter body-checked Clark to the ground in an away-from-the-ball foul, which was also later upgraded to a flagrant 1.

Carter’s foul sparked a national debate about whether Clark’s teammates should be coming to her defense as veteran defenders repeatedly welcomed the rookie to the WNBA with persistent physicality.

Clark, the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft, has followed up a record-setting four years at Iowa with an uneven start to her professional career. The 22-year-old guard leads the Fever (5-10) with 16.1 points and 6.2 assists per game but is shooting just 38.3%. Her 5.5 turnovers per game lead the WNBA by a wide margin.

Clark delivered one of her best games as a pro on Sunday, scoring 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go with eight rebounds and nine assists.

Reese, too, is off to an up-and-down start. She is averaging a double-double with 12.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game but is shooting just 37.1%, which is the fourth-lowest mark among the 40 WNBA qualifiers. The 6-foot-3 forward is averaging 3.9 fouls per game and has been assessed five fouls in six of her 13 games. The Sky are 4-9.

Clark and Reese faced each other in multiple high-profile matchups in college. Reese’s LSU Tigers defeated Clark’s Hawkeyes in the 2023 national championship game, during which Reese famously used John Cena’s hand-waving “You can’t see me” gesture toward Clark. Clark had used the same gesture against Maryland two rounds earlier.

The teams reunited in the Elite Eight of this year’s NCAA Tournament, with Clark’s Hawkeyes eliminating Reese’s Tigers.

Clark and Reese have now met twice in the WNBA, with the stars winning one game apiece.

“I know I’ll go down in history,” Reese said this month after their first meeting. “I’ll look back in 20 years and be like, ‘Yeah, the reason why we’re watching women’s basketball is not just because of one person.’ It’s because of me, too, and I want you to realize that.”