Kaila Charles has been a pillar for No. 15 Maryland, scoring in double figures in every game to start the season. But with the Terrapins winning so many games by blowout, the sophomore guard has been content to do her work quietly.
In Thursday’s Big Ten opener, Charles took charge, pushing the energy from the opening tip and dominating on both sides of the ball in a 100-65 win over Illinois before an announced 7,346 at Xfinity Center.
The 2015-16 All-Met Player of the Year from Riverdale Baptist had a game-high 24 points to go with 10 rebounds and a season-high six assists as Maryland (12-2, 1-0) led by 15 after the first quarter and never looked back. It was Charles’s first 20-point game since the Terps’ 75-54 win over Akron on Dec. 2.
“Kaila makes us go,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “That’s why she heads our defense. You’ll see that energy in our press, and she is a matchup nightmare when you talk about both ends of the floor. On the offensive end I really think she took the game and what came to her.
“That’s what she can do every night.”
The 6-foot-1 guard was one of five Terps in double figures as Maryland won its 10th straight, including the past six by at least 20 points. Illinois fell to 9-6, 0-1. Sophomore guard Brandi Beasley led Illinois with 16 points.
Maryland sophomore forward Stephanie Jones recorded her second double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds, and sophomore guard Blair Watson had 22 points, including six three-pointers, and a career-high eight rebounds.
Charles, who entered averaging 18.4 points and 7.9 rebounds, had 17 points and seven rebounds in the first half as Maryland built a 57-31 lead at intermission.
“I feel like when we lock in and we bring that energy and effort you see us play our best game,” Charles said.
“So today we were just locking in on our defense and trying to force turnovers and score off those turnovers by pushing the ball.”
Watson stepped up in the second half, hitting five three-pointers.
“This is who she is,” Frese said. “Last year, unfortunately she came in after shoulder surgery and never got to be able to get into that kind of rhythm all season, and this is how well she was able to shoot out of high school, and you are seeing her abilities now.”
Maryland, seeking its fourth straight Big Ten title (it shared the top spot last season with Ohio State), missed nine of its first 13 shots before getting hot. Charles sparked a 13-3 run in the second quarter.
Junior forward Brianna Fraser had 12 points and nine rebounds as the Terps dominated in the paint with a 42-20 advantage. The Terps entered averaging 39.5 points in the paint.
“Every game is going to be different in terms of how you are going to try to stop us,” Frese said.
Maryland owned a 54-34 rebounding edge.
During the second-quarter run, senior guard Kristen Confroy moved to No. 3 all time in three-pointers (174) at Maryland. The Terps’ next game will be a road contest against Penn State on Sunday at 2 p.m.