BOSTON — The euphemistic phrase for the University of Maine women’s basketball team Tuesday night would be “an opportunity for growth.”

That’s why Black Bears Coach Richard Barron spent nearly 30 minutes with his players after Maine’s 69-62 loss to Harvard at the Lavietes Pavilion.

“We played poorly the whole game,” Barron said. “Our defense was poor. Our communication was poor. I felt like our physical effort was poor.

“They outhustled us, outworked us. They were more aggressive.”

And Barron made sure his players knew that.

“We hope we learned from this and get better,” Barron said. “We have to understand that we have to bring the intensity – especially on the road – that we didn’t bring today.”

With all this gloomy talk, you wouldn’t know the Black Bears (1-2) led most of the game. But even when they were shooting 56.3 percent in the first quarter, something was wrong. Maine led only 22-18.

The Black Bears also led at the half (34-27) and most of the third quarter.

“We never delivered the knockout punch,” Barron said. “We just played soft.”

Senior Sigi Koizar led Maine with 21 points, one of four Black Bears in double figures. Laia Sole scored 13 and both Tanesha Sutton and Blanca Millan added 10.

Harvard (1-1) was led by senior Destin Nunley (22 points). Five Crimson players scored eight points and Harvard played nine players regularly, using an up-tempo offense that often caught Maine off guard.

“We’re athletic and fast and deep,” Harvard Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said.

So even with Maine dazzling on offense early, Harvard stayed with the Black Bears.

“We really have to work on our transition defense,” Barron. “We just had so many mental breakdowns … it just tells you that your team’s not in it mentally.”

But, with 20 seconds left in the third quarter, Maine still led 53-51.

“This new batch of (Maine) kids is good,” Delany-Smith said, referring to Maine’s touted freshmen, three of whom start.

“We were getting schooled. We went to zone (defense) and then made some adjustments with our zone that seemed to hurt Maine.”

Madeline Raster hit a 3-pointer to give the Crimson a 54-53 lead at the end of the third quarter. Maine never caught up.

The Black Bears struggled to score inside as Sole had some nice spin moves early, but she was smothered in the fourth quarter. And Maine’s outside shooting dried up. After hitting 7-of-12 3-pointers, the Black Bears missed their last 12 3s.

Maine shot 6.3 percent (1 for 16) in the fourth quarter.

With Maine down 65-60, Sole missed on a spin move inside. Harvard rebounded and flew down the court. Sydney Skinner hit the layup, was fouled and sank the free throw for a 68-60 lead with 1:39 left.

“We got so much more potential than what we showed,” Barron said. “We hope this is a character-building game for us.”

The Black Bears next head to the Hall of Fame Challenge in Columbia, South Carolina for three games, starting Sunday.