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Kaila Charles fueled Maryland women’s basketball’s comeback against South Carolina

The sophomore’s monster fourth quarter led the Terps’ rally.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Maryland vs Michigan State Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With 5:53 left in the fourth quarter on Monday night, Maryland sophomore Kaila Charles corralled an offensive rebound off a missed jumper by Ieshia Small. Charles missed a putback opportunity, but got her own rebound. On her second effort, she finished through contact for a layup. It was the Terps’ first three-point play opportunity of the night.

At the time, it seemed like a garbage-time layup that cut South Carolina’s lead to 16, but it was just one example of Charles’ spectacular play in the fourth quarter that helped Maryland almost pull off an unbelievable comeback against the defending national champions. The Terps cut a 26-point deficit down to three in the final minute, before ultimately falling short in a 94-86 loss.

Charles took over in the final frame, scoring 19 points to finish with a career-high 31.

“Just a sensational job by her,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “A lot of players might have folded after having four points in the first half, but she just put her head down and fought and showed what makes her so special.”

Frese said Charles struggled to get into the flow of the game in the first half. She had just four points, got called for two fouls in the first quarter and played just seven minutes.

In the fourth quarter, she became a different player. The run actually started in the last minute of the third quarter, when she scored back-to-back layups.

If you include those two baskets, Charles had 23 points in just over 10 minutes, which only added to her new career high. Her previous best was 19 last year against Washington State, and she matched that mark in the last quarter alone.

She also started to attack the basket more at the end of the game, getting to the line for 11 of her 15 foul shots in the final frame (she went 14-of-15).

“Once I saw that I was getting the calls and finishing I had that mentality to start attacking and stop settling,” Charles said.

South Carolina senior forward A’ja Wilson said that when Charles started going to the rim, it became hard for the Gamecocks to figure out where to guard her. Charles isn’t as much of a threat on the perimeter, but she knocked down a jumper and a three during her barrage in the fourth quarter.

It was the type of a run that made Frese compare the sophomore from Glenn Dale, Maryland, to one of the program’s all-time greats.

“She’s got flashes where she looks like Alyssa Thomas,” Frese said. “Taking the ball the length of the floor, being really athletic, she’s kind of a matchup nightmare.”