When the buzzer sounded at the end of last night's Harvard-Providence women's basketball game, the Crimson had lost more than just a see-saw contest against a quality opponent.
Starting point guard Amy Reinhard went down with an ankle injury just 38 seconds into the game, which will keep her out of action for an indeterminate period of time.
The bad breaks didn't stop there. Sophomore forward Allison Feaster picked up two quick fouls with just three minutes gone by and was limited to just 21 minutes on the night due to foul trouble, leaving the Crimson (3-2) with neither its floor leader nor its most potent offensive threat for much of the game.
Feaster sat much of the first half and then returned in the second half, only to leave again when she picked up her fourth foul on a questionable blocking call with 12:04 to go.
"It was a no call, a bump," Harvard coach Kathy Delaney Smith said. "The refereeing was inconsistent."
With that in mind, the 91-87 defeat at the hands of the Lady Friars (1-3) doesn't seem all that bad. After all, two of Providence's three previous losses were to teams ranked in the top 10 nationally (Stanford and Ohio State), and their defeat by Rhode Island was by the narrowest of margins (78-77).
The Crimson played the visitors close throughout the first half, handling the full-court press admirably to stay within striking distance of the Lady Friars. With co-captain Liz Gettelman's hot hand from the outside (10 points on 4-6 shooting in the first half) providing the lift, Harvard went into the intermission holding a 48-45 advantage.
Halftime adjustments propelled Providence out of the gate in the second stanza, as the Lady Friars used their inside muscle to grab a 67-56 lead with 14:11 to play.
"We could have denied the pass in to [Providence forwards Kerri Chatten and Nadine Malcom] better," Delaney-Smith said.
Malcom and Chatten led all scorers with 23 and 22 points, respectively. Chatten's 13 boards paced all rebounders for the game as well.
Oddly, Feaster's exit after accumulating her fourth foul sparked the Crimson's comeback.
Harvard rattled off 10 unanswered points in a span of 1:09, including two clutch buckets from freshman forward Suzie Miller to pull within two at 70-68.
"Suzie is one of the most fundamentally sound freshmen ever to come into this program," Delaney-Smith said. "She does very well in pressure situations."
The comeback appeared to have fallen short, however, until Feaster came off the bench and outscored the entire Providence team in 3:50. She poured in eight of her 19 points in a 10-4 Harvard run that gave the Crimson a 78-76 lead with 3:27 remaining.
Providence coach Bob Foley's decision to call for a time out was a good one, though, as the Lady Friars managed to keep their composure.
A layup off a post move by Malcom, followed by a jumper from Chatten and then a three-pointer from Julie Wheeler all found the net for Providence, and the game was all but over.
"Under penalty of death, whoever was guarding Wheeler was to prevent her from shooting the three," Delaney-Smith said. "It was a mental breakdown on our part."
All Harvard could do was score, foul Providence and hope the Lady Friars would miss the ensuing free throws.
That turned out to be an empty hope, as Providence shot a stunning 85 percent from the charity stripe for the game, missing just one foul shot in the second half.
When all was said and done, Harvard had shot better, out-rebounded and committed fewer turnovers than Providence, but a game isn't won on those stats alone.
"The missing ingredient was 40 minutes of emotion," Delaney-Smith said. "We lost to one of the better teams in the Northeast, and we have to come out of this knowing we are at least as good they are."
Next time, they'll have to play like it as well. Providence: Horton 0-1 2-2 2; Davis 0-2 0-0 0; Miller 0-0 0-2 0; Chatten 9-15 4-4 22;
Providence: Horton 0-1 2-2 2; Davis 0-2 0-0 0; Miller 0-0 0-2 0; Chatten 9-15 4-4 22;