At halftime of the Maryland women's basketball team's 94-86 loss to defending national champion South Carolina, guard Kaila Charles went to the locker room having scored just four points.
She went 1-for-4 from the field and didn't record a bucket in Maryland's lackluster first quarter, which put the team in a 16-point hole.
Late in the third quarter, Charles hit a layup to bring her point total to six. The finish began a dominant stretch for the sophomore that nearly dragged the Terps to a comeback victory over the No. 4 Gamecocks.
Charles scored 27 of her 31 points in the second half, including 19 in the fourth quarter. Charles' outburst was a sign of the sophomore's development into a leadership role.
"A lot of players might have folded after having four points in the first half but she just put her head down and fought," coach Brenda Frese said. "That showed what makes her so special."
Frese pinpointed Charles as the leading voice in the locker room and on the floor for the No. 15 Terps. Before the season, Frese said Charles "wants the pressure."
However, after a 13-point performance in Friday's opener against Albany and a quiet first half Monday, Charles had not yet backed up the hype with on-court production.
That changed when the Terps (1-1) needed her most.
Trailing 67-43, Charles scored 12 of Maryland's next 15 points. Her energy and strength against the physically imposing Gamecocks (2-0) changed the pace of the game.
"I had a slow first half with foul trouble and then I was settling for shots," Charles said. "But [my teammates and coaches] just kept encouraging me to attack the basket. Once I saw I was getting the foul calls and I was finishing, I had that mentality to start attacking, not settling."
Charles shot 14-for-15 at the line, with most of those opportunities coming in the second half. She also grabbed six second-half rebounds, bringing her total to 10 in the contest.
"When she's attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line 15 times, you see that nobody in the country can stop her," Frese said.
South Carolina forward A'ja Wilson was a dominant force with 32 points and 12 rebounds. But after describing South Carolina coach Dawn Staley's philosophy of working "until the cows come home," Wilson praised Charles' work ethic.
"It's very difficult [to stop Charles]," Wilson said. "I guess the cows didn't come home for her either. She just kept going … bringing it to us and making us foul. That's a good player."
Charles' performance was emblematic of the team's shift in mentality. She said the Terps discussed how "this is our house and we need to leave everything on the floor" in the locker room at the break.
When Maryland came out for the second half, Charles looked a different player, flashing her athleticism and potential. It's the version of the sophomore the Terps are hoping to rely on after returning only two starters from last year.
"That's the Kaila we have to have," Frese said.