CHARLESTON, S.C. — Jessica Pegula occupies a different sector of sports, but she’s witnessed the Caitlin Clark Effect on women’s college basketball.

“I’ve definitely paid a lot more attention since Caitlin Clark, so I’ve been following a lot more,” said Pegula, the top seed here at the Credit One Charleston Open, on Thursday. “I feel like I have been hearing it a lot more, and it seems like I truthfully have just heard a lot more about it than the men’s side, which I think is really cool.”

The University of Iowa star was named the Associated Press Player of the Year for the second consecutive time on Thursday. Clark, the NCAA Division 1 all-time leading scorer, leads the Hawkeyes into a Friday Final Four game against the University of Connecticut in Cleveland (9:30 ET).

Clark’s last game, against defending champion LSU, drew more than 12 million television viewers — the most-watched college basketball game ever on ESPN platforms.

The average women’s NCAA tournament game rating is up by 127% year over year from the 2023 tourney, according to release from ESPN parent company Disney. It added the viewership for the Elite Eight game was ESPN’s highest audience for any basketball game since the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

In a sport that has done more than its share of elevating women’s athletics, maybe Pegula senses a kindred spirit.

“To see a woman changing the game and growing the sport is awesome,” Pegula said. “So, yeah, I’m definitely a big fan, and I’ve been following a lot more because of her. I’m not a super crazy fan, but obviously anyone — all the girl athletes that are playing, women athletes, it’s really fun to follow and see how they’re growing their sport.”


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