"I'm dumbfounded. I don't know why we lost this game."
Thus spoke Harvard women's basketball coach Kathy Delaney Smith following last night's 87-77 loss to the University of Rhode Island.
The defeat, which marked the Crimson's fourth loss in its last five games, was especially painful in that Harvard again seemed poised to win but faltered down the stretch.
Following a Katy Davis turn around, which gave Harvard a 69-68 edge, the Crimson completely self destructed. With 3:30 remaining in the game, URI went on 13-1 run, courtesy of shoddy Harvard defense sloppy ball-handling and poor decision-making.
After the game, the players appeared equally stupefied, unable to explain their recent slew of last-minute losses.
"We've been in every game at the end, and we've just crawled into a shell," senior co-captain Elizabeth Proudfit said. "No one has any idea what's going on."
Without a doubt, though, there have been several maladies that have consistently plagued Harvard through-out its losses to George Washington, Providence, Duquesne and URI.
1. In each of its losses, Harvard's opponent has exploited the Crimson's lack of an inside presence defensively.
Both of Harvard's starting post-players, Davis and Allison Feaster, measure less than six feet and often appear over-matched by taller, heavier forwards and centers.
"Everybody has gone to their post players for their big shots [against us]," Delaney Smith said.
URI power forward Tasha King netted 21 against Harvard last night, while Duquesne center Trixie Wolf lit up the interior of the Crimson 'D' for 24 points.
But to place full responsibility on the broad shoulders of Harvard's front-court would be unfair. Harvard's guards need to assert more pressure on their counterparts, as well.
"Our defense has to get better," Proudfit said. "We're letting the [opposing] post get the ball easily, and we're not pressuring the ball coming up the court."
2. As anyone who has seen a women's basketball game can attest, good things happen for Harvard when Feaster is on the court.
Unfortunately for the Crimson, Feaster has spent significant minutes on the bench in each of Harvard's losses. Against URI, the sophomore power forward played only 25 minutes, tallying 25 points and hauling down 16 rebounds during that time.