Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every Monday of the women's college basketball season.
It hasn't been the season that Kaila Charles or Maryland envisioned. The good news is that the most important part is still to come, and the early indications suggest that everything will be fine for both.
After spending the nonconference portion of the schedule playing far below her status as a preseason All-American, Charles opened Big Ten play with a statement. Her 23 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals against Michigan on Saturday represented her best game of the season and propelled No. 12 Maryland to a 70-55 win over No. 23 Michigan. That performance earned Charles the espnW national player of the week.
It came at the perfect time for the Terrapins (10-2), who played an inconsistent first two months of the season. Six games of 90 points or more against lesser competition were overshadowed by losses to South Carolina and NC State and a close call against James Madison in which the offense struggled. Charles' struggles might have been a big reason why. She shot just 11-of-44 from the field in those three games, her three worst in a season that so far hasn't met expectations.
The 6-foot-1 senior guard entered Saturday's game averaging 12.2 points per game, which is nearly five fewer points per game than she scored a year ago, with a shooting percentage of 45.2%. She had just one 20-point game prior to her season-high 23 against Michigan; she scored more than 20 points in 14 games as a junior.
Perhaps Saturday was a turning point. Coach Brenda Frese credited Charles with being the catalyst early in the game when the rest of her teammates were slow to respond coming off a 10-day layoff. Charles had 13 points and six rebounds in the first half. Then midway through the fourth quarter, she delivered again with four points and an assist during a 7-0 run that gave Maryland a nine-point lead. Michigan never got closer the rest of the way.
"My main goal was to make sure I had good energy and good effort and making sure I was encouraging my teammates and bringing them with me," Charles told the Big Ten Network after the game.
Defense was also part of that effort. Her three steals led the way in forcing 23 Wolverine turnovers.
Maryland returns to the court Tuesday at Northwestern before hosting Ohio State on Jan. 6 (ESPN2/ESPN App, 7 p.m. ET).
Also considered: Ellen Margaret Andrews, Yale; Jazmine Jones, Louisville; Ali Patberg, Indiana; Cate Reese, Arizona; Jaylyn Sherrod, Colorado; Davion Wingate, Florida Gulf Coast
Previous winners: Charli Collier, Texas (Dec. 23); Ashley Joens, Iowa State (Dec. 16); Megan Walker, UConn (Dec. 9); Dana Evans, Louisville (Dec. 2); Jaelyn Brown, Cal (Nov. 25); Aari McDonald, Arizona (Nov. 18); Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon (Nov. 11)