Kaila Charles has been the Maryland women’s basketball team’s go-to player all year, lifting the Terps whenever the squad has needed someone to take over a game.
The trend continued Sunday at Nebraska, as No. 11 Maryland overcame a lack of offensive fluidity with Charles’ 25-point, 16-rebound performance to outlast the Cornhuskers, 64-57. The Terps have now won five straight games.
“Kaila sets the tone for us in so many ways,” Frese said. “Scoring, rebounding, defense, making plays. As you can see, I can’t take her off the court with the energy that she gives us.”
Neither team managed to find a rhythm in the low-scoring affair. The Terps (20-3, 9-1 Big Ten) entered the contest averaging 85.3 points per game, but struggled to break down the Nebraska (17-7, 8-3 Big Ten) defense.
Both of Maryland’s primary frontcourt players, forwards Stephanie Jones and Brianna Fraser, picked up early fouls and failed to contribute a field goal in the first half. Maryland’s shooters weren’t locked in either, going 2-for-7 from deep before the break and 4-for-12 overall.
But Charles made up for those struggles.
She scored 14 of Maryland’s 27 first-half points and grabbed seven rebounds in the opening 20 minutes. No other player contributed more than six points in that span.
With less a minute left in the first half and the shot clock in its dying seconds, guard Kristen Confroy whipped a cross-court pass to guard Channise Lewis, whose 3-pointer provided a five-point cushion at the break.
Charles scored first to open the second half, igniting a 7-0 Maryland run that helped the Terps pull away. While the Terps missed 12 of their final 13 field goals, the Cornhuskers failed to close the gap.
The Terps managed to grab 20 more rebounds than the Huskers to ensure few second-chance opportunities for the hosts, which Charles said was a big emphasis as an area in which the Terps have been “sluggish” of late.
Frese attributed Maryland’s ability to hold Nebraska off to the play of her bench. Fraser added 12 of her 14 points in the second half and Aja Ellison filled in while Fraser and Jones were in foul trouble.
“Brianna Fraser was phenomenal for us down the stretch,” Frese said. “Twelve of her 14 points, we needed every single one of them. Aja Ellison coming in off the bench. I thought we just had key contributions at the right time.”
Maryland drained eight of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter while holding Nebraska under 40 percent shooting in the frame. That was enough to clinch the program’s 14th straight 20-win season under Frese.
While the Huskers kept it close, the Terps never underestimated them as they remain in first place atop the conference.
“All these games in the Big Ten, as they’re unfolding, they’re all extremely difficult games,” Frese said. “At home or on the road, anybody can beat anyone.”