Maryland's Kaila Charles was a rare bright spot for the Terrapins with 29 points and 12 rebounds. (Jessica Hill/Associated Press)

It's hard to stand down the sideline from Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma, in the bottom of a frenzied cauldron packed with 10,126 of fervent women's college basketball fans, beneath a scoreboard that, at one point, showed your team down by 37 points, and think about growth.

Maryland Coach Brenda Frese thought her roster would look different back when she scheduled both South Carolina and Connecticut within the first two weeks of this season. She thought, at least, she would have a star point guard to anchor her team, not a converted wing and young freshman splitting time at the position while a sophomore shouldered scoring responsibilities by herself.

But with the young roster Frese does have, Sunday's game against Connecticut became less of a chance for the Terrapins to prove themselves and more a game that would force a young Maryland team to grow up. The No. 1 Huskies clobbered the Terps, 97-72, for No. 15 Maryland's second loss to a ranked opponent in the past week. But Frese did, in fact, see growth.

“When you look at all five [Huskies] players in double figures — it’s not a consolation, obviously, when you lose, but I’m actually pleased, I guess would be the word,” Frese said. “When you talk about such a young team, to be able to come in and do some of those things, I thought we grew as a team . . . to be able to get 72 points up against the defense that they play, to get 16 steals. So, some positive things for our young team to be able to build off of.”

Frese’s positive demeanor followed a game in which Connecticut (3-0) dominated from the start and outscored the Terps 32-11 in the first quarter to create so much separation Maryland (2-2) could not catch up. The result was Maryland’s second-worst loss ever against Connecticut, behind a 26-point loss in March 2013.

In the 2016-17 season, the Terps were one of three teams in the nation to lose to the Huskies by fewer than 10 points. They are 0-7 in the series, which dates back to 2012.

“To be able to compete for the three quarters — we went from competing for 12 minutes against South Carolina to 30 tonight,” Frese said. “Our starts, obviously, this is all new, uncharted territory for our players when you look at the minutes that they’re having to play that they’ve never experienced. . . . When you look at the last three quarters, we were minus four.”

Maryland’s inexperience manifested itself in myriad ways against the veteran Huskies. Connecticut was missing one of its leaders, junior Katie Lou Samuelson, the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 16.5 points but out with a foot injury. They had six scorers in double figures anyway against a Terrapins’ defense that struggled to keep pace with the lightning-fast Huskies.

Maryland was almost always on its heels on defense, and early on had little time to rest. Midway through the third quarter, Connecticut’s possessions lasted an average of 64 seconds compared with the Terps’ 14 seconds. The Huskies’ worked their considerable size advantage to outrebound Maryland 57-35.

The Terps turned to sophomore Kaila Charles to provide an offensive spark.

The 6-foot-1 guard faced heavy pressure under the basket all game, but led the team with 29 points on 13-for-22 shooting and 12 rebounds. She has scored in double digits in every game this season. Senior guard Iesha Small added 12 points off the bench and junior Brianna Fraser had 11 points, but just as she did against South Carolina, it was Charles who powered the Terrapins late. The sophomore had 15 points in the fourth quarter alone.

“We were just being optimistic,” Charles said. “Yeah, we got down on each other, but we realized it and quickly turned around like, ‘Hey guys, we’re still in it. Don’t get mental with the game, just keep playing our game.’ So even though we went down early we stayed positive and tried to build on it and make improvements as we played.”

Senior guard Kia Nurse led Connecticut with 21 points, and the 6-6 junior Azura Stevens had 18 points and a team-high 12 rebounds. The Huskies shot 48.7 percent from the floor to Maryland’s 38.9 percent, including 60 percent from the field in the fourth quarter.

Auriemma was most displeased with his younger players’ late-game, lagging defense that let the Terps stay competitive.

“They’re horrible, it’s the worst defensive group of freshmen I’ve seen in my life,” Auriemma said. “My first team was a better defensive team than these freshman.”

On the whole, Connecticut probably presented the best defense Maryland will face all season. With that challenge behind them, Frese is only thinking about growth.