INDIANAPOLIS — As confetti floated from the rafters at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Iowa forward Megan Gustafson made her way through the Maryland women’s basketball team she just dominated and placed both arms around guard Kaila Charles.

Charles was no match for Gustafson on Sunday. The potential Player of the Year scored a season-high 45 points to push the Hawkeyes past the Terps, 90-76, for the Big Ten title.

But Gustafson wanted to single out Maryland’s leading scorer after a dazzling display of her own — a career-best 36 points on 15-for-30 shooting.

While Charles had a predictably excellent regular season, her dominance in the conference tourney — averaging 26.3 points over the Terps’ three games — suggests she may have turned a corner before leading the team into the NCAA tournament.

“I just saw how aggressive I can be,” Charles said. “It’s just showing me areas I need to work on and showing me areas I can improve on. And so I’m just ready to get back in the gym and keep working.”

[Read more: Iowa’s Megan Gustafson wrecks Maryland women’s basketball in Big Ten title game loss, 90-76]

Charles’ performance Sunday avenged her regular-season outing against the Hawkeyes, when she was held scoreless until the final two minutes of Maryland’s 86-73 loss in Iowa City.

In the rematch, Charles again started slowly. But her 16-point second quarter and an explosive beginning to the third — highlighted by an and-one in transition that prompted the hyped-up Charles and her coach to roar in excitement — drew the game level at 53 before the Terps faded late.

“[It] continues to speak volumes of Kaila and just her will to win, her competitiveness and not to be denied,” coach Brenda Frese said. “She just wanted to do whatever she could to be able to put this team on her back.”

[Read more: Maryland women’s basketball drops to No. 9 in AP poll after Big Ten title game loss]

Charles carried the team at every stage of the Big Ten tournament.

Even after a controversial — and potentially phantom — timeout from Frese wiped out Charles’ apparent go-ahead make with 10.3 seconds remaining in the semifinals against Michigan on Saturday, Charles remained calm.

The junior was fouled on the subsequent inbound and stepped to the line to drain a pair of free throws, putting Maryland ahead for good.

“I’m really passionate about this game. I love it,” Charles said Saturday. “I love competition, and I was just excited. I love a close finish. I love to get the adrenaline, so it was just fun.”

In a 71-55 quarterfinal win over Michigan State the day before, Charles had the first of her three 20-point outbursts in the tournament. Sixteen of her 21 points against the Spartans came after halftime, and Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant lamented not having a primary scoring option like Charles in crunch time.

“You can tell,” Merchant said, “when the game is on the line, that kid wants the ball in her hands and single-handedly can take a game over.”

Charles couldn’t quite gut out a third win in three days, but she didn’t yield against the Hawkeyes. Even as her team faced a 12-point deficit with a minute remaining, she tumbled to the floor, attempting to corral a rebound in a game well out of reach.

Although a Big Ten tournament championship slipped through the Terps’ fingers for the second year in a row, Frese was pleased with the team’s effort throughout. And heading into the NCAA tournament, that drive, led by Charles, may prove to be a deciding factor with Maryland’s season on the line.

“We fought hard for 40 minutes, never gave up,” said Charles. “We’re not done. We’re far from over, and we’re going to keep working and try to go as far as we can in the NCAA’s.”