Oklahoma rallies from 26 down to stun Cal

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale had a tough time summing it up, still stunned by her team's remarkable rally. California coach Joanne Boyle broke down, emotionally spent and embarrassed.

"One of the craziest games I've ever been a part of," Coale said. "Complete role reversal from one half to the other."

Reserve Nyeshia Stevenson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and gave Oklahoma (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) its first lead of the game with 3:43 to play, and the Sooners made an improbable comeback from a 26-point halftime deficit to shock Cal (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) 86-75 on Saturday night in the Basketball By The Bay Classic.

Cal led by 17 points, 69-52, before Oklahoma (8-2) closed the game with a 34-6 run.

Stevenson finished with 21 points and Courtney Paris had 18 points and 13 rebounds to extend her consecutive streak of double-doubles dating to her freshman season to 102 in Oklahoma's third straight victory since a loss to top-ranked Connecticut on Nov. 30.

Cal's focus this season has been on finishing. Especially after the Bears lost a heartbreaker to George Washington at the final buzzer in the second round of the NCAA tournament last season.

"It's the thing that we wanted to improve on," Boyle said, becoming emotional. "I told them in there, I've never as a coach lost a 30-point lead, so I obviously didn't do my job to coach to prepare them to be in that situation. That's on me. You have to have guard play at the end of the game. Our guards are good. For whatever reason they were tentative or questioning themselves. We just didn't do the easy things."

Ashley Walker scored in the paint and from the perimeter, finishing with 26 points and eight rebounds in the shocking collapse by Cal (8-2).

Alexis Gray-Lawson had 16 points and nine assists and Lauren Greif added a season-high 18 points for the Golden Bears, who dominated the first half of this highly anticipated showdown between the top-10 programs and all their ties but couldn't do enough right to hold off a late Oklahoma charge.

The Bears shot 64 percent in the first half only to blow it over the final 20 minutes by shooting 28 percent and committing 11 of their 18 turnovers.

"I thought they were fabulous in the first half, almost played fabulously, about as perfectly as you can play," Coale said. "And we didn't, obviously. We couldn't make shots, didn't really have the aggression that we needed. Second half, I was really proud of our kids for not panicking, first of all, and for playing every possession as if it was the one that would win the game. It takes a certain amount of maturity, a certain amount of character to do that."

Danielle Robinson's three-point play with 6:22 left cut Cal's lead to 71-62 and single digits for the first time since the Bears led 11-4. Whitney Hand then hit a baseline 3-pointer with 4:57 to play to make it 71-67, Robinson hit a pair of free throws at 4:32 and Stevenson's steal in the backcourt and ensuing layin at 3:43 tied the game at 71. Boyle quickly called timeout. Stevenson then hit consecutive 3s, two of her four from long distance.

"We just tried to chip away, piece by piece by piece," Stevenson said.

This was the Bay Area return for Paris and her twin sister Ashley, who were prep stars at Piedmont only about 10 minutes from Cal's campus in Berkeley. The Bears lost out to the Sooners for the twins, who had their share of supporters in the record women's crowd of 2,636 at San Jose State University -- including their father, Bubba, a former offensive lineman with the San Francisco 49ers. Robinson, another Sooners starter, also returned to her San Jose roots.

Walker played AAU ball with the sisters and Walker and Courtney Paris bumped and pushed in the paint nearly every possession early. Cal shot 11 first-half free throws to one for Oklahoma and Coale was warned after arguing the foul disparity.

"We want to win. It doesn't matter if you're down by 50, or you're down by two or you're up by 20," Courtney Paris said. "Coach came in at halftime and said, 'I'm not going to coach effort.' That's something we take personal."

The Bears pushed the pace and jumped to a 15-4 lead 5:01 into the game and Oklahoma started 5-for-21 and missed its first six 3-point tries before Jenny Vining hit at the 7:20 mark of the first half. Cal shot 11-for-16 to start the game and forced five turnovers before the midway point of the first half on the way to a 32-10 lead at the 8:43 mark.

Courtney Paris, who cut up her chin in the first half and wore a bandage on it the rest of the way, stayed out of foul trouble down the stretch after getting three in the first half. Ashley was held to seven points on 1-for-8 shooting after coming in averaging a team-leading 16.3 points per game.

Cal had won the only other two meetings with Oklahoma but this marked the first matchup between the schools since Nov. 28, 1987, when the Bears won 81-66 in the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu.

"We went away from everything that went right in the first half and nothing fell in the second half," Walker said.

Cal State Bakersfield beat host San Jose State 78-59 in Saturday's earlier Classic game.