WVU's Kellogg backs off Clark 'packing' comment

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — West Virginia women’s basketball coach Mark Kellogg was trying to fire up his fan base on Selection Sunday, but if he had another chance, he might pick a different way to do it.

After the No. 8 seed Mountaineers found out they were in the NCAA women’s tournament early round games at Iowa, Kellogg told the team and its followers, “Let’s win one and then send Caitlin Clark packing.”

The Mountaineers will face No. 9 seed Princeton in the first round Saturday (5:30 pm. ET, ESPN2) here at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. That game follows Clark and the No. 1-seeded Hawkeyes meeting 16-seed Holy Cross (3 p.m. ET, ABC).

Chatter about Clark, the face of her sport this season, has been constant. Still, Kellogg said he got some online grief from Iowa fans. He was asked about his comment again Friday.

“I’m not a [trash-talker] … I wasn’t out to get Caitlin Clark. It’s not Mark Kellogg versus Caitlin Clark,” said Kellogg, who pointed out that the Mountaineers must focus on Ivy League champion Princeton before he can even think about how to slow down Clark if Iowa wins, too.

“With our seed is honestly where it started. That wasn’t really the seed maybe that some people in the room were expecting, not even from me necessarily. So it turned into, ‘OK, well, let’s get past that. Now let’s talk about Princeton.’ Then, of course, everybody in the room knows Caitlin Clark.”

Hence, Kellogg’s quip. Meanwhile, Holy Cross coach Maureen Magarity said her young daughters are Clark fans and joked that her oldest might help with the scouting report.

“They’ve watched more Caitlin Clark games than I have,” Magarity said. “It’s hard not to be in awe of everything she does. I probably shouldn’t say this, but we did go to the [Iowa] bookstore yesterday … there was one shirt we were really looking for that was about to be sold out, so we might have had to buy that.”

As for Clark, like a lot of athletes, she can be fired up by perceived slights or negative comments but didn’t seem concerned about what Kellogg said. This is the last NCAA tournament for the senior guard, who leads Division I in scoring, assists and 3-pointers. Clark has experienced huge highs (leading Iowa to the 2023 Final Four) and lows (being upset by Creighton in the 2022 second round in Iowa City), and said she and the Hawkeyes should be ready for anything.

Clark also talked Friday about how the Hawkeyes realize that they are in a tough region with several challengers. But after their experience going to the Final Four last season, they are ready for it.

“I would say our region probably has the most talent in it,” Clark said. “But at the same time, we’re the 1-seed in that region. There’s no reason for us to shy away from anything; we can hang with every single team in the country. But also, there’s a lot of really good teams in the country that can beat us, and you better come ready to play every single night.

“Our group understands that. … I don’t think any any of us would want a cakewalk to the Final Four. That’s not how this works. It’s not how it worked last year. … We had to find ways to be resilient to get to where we wanted to go.”

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