Up by just one point with less than 10 seconds remaining in the first ever Pac-12 basketball game, California senior guard Jorge Gutierrez split the lane and drove to the rim.
Waiting for him was USC seven-footer Dewayne Dedmon, who swatted the ball out of Gutierrez's hand, and out to the left wing. With the shot clock expiring, Bears sophomore Allen Crabbe heaved up a desperation three with Eric Strangis in his face. Strangis came down into Crabbe just as the ball left his hands for a foul. Crabbe stepped to the line with 8.4 seconds left, and hit all three of his free throws to ice a dramatic 53-49 win for Cal at home in front of 9,447 at Haas Pavilion.
"I just knew he blocked the shot and it came right to me. I just threw it up, I didn't even know they called a foul on him," Crabbe said. "There was a second left. I just caught it and looked at the shot clock."
Gutierrez finished with a team-high 13 points, along with seven assists, seven rebounds and four steals. Senior power forward Harper Kamp and Crabbe added 12 points apiece for the Bears (11-3, 1-0), who remained unbeaten at home.
Cal nearly had that run broken in the second half, when, after going up by 14 with 10:19 left in the game, the Trojans (5-9, 0-1) went on a 21-8 run. Having shot at a 59.1 percent clip in the first half, the Bears couldn't find the bottom of the net after halftime, shooting just 34.8 percent as USC began to mount a comeback.
"We just lost focus. We slacked off and USC got more aggressive and started making plays," Crabbe said.
5-foot-7, 155-pound USC guard Maurice Jones scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half and knocked down three late three-pointers to keep the Trojans (5-9, 0-1) close in the waning minutes. He also had four assists and four steals. Jones' long 3-pointer with 4:39 left cut Cal's lead to 48-41 after the Golden Bears led by 16 in the second half, then Jones hit from behind the arc on the next time down to make it 48-44 with 3:20 to play.
"We were trying to put together 40 minutes of playing hard and we didn't quite do that tonight," Jones said. "I was just trying to take over and make something happen. My shots were falling."
Starting Cal point guard Justin Cobbs scored moments later on a transition dunk for Cal, which then gave up yet another three-pointer by Jones at the 2:21 mark to make it 50-47. Jones had a steal on the Bears' next possession but missed an open trey from the top.
Jones dished off to Aaron Fuller for a basket with 43.3 seconds remaining. Ahead 50-49, head coach Mike Montgomery called timeout to set up a final play with 13.6 seconds left.
USC -- which dropped to 4-2 when either out-rebounding or matching an opponent on the boards -- held a commanding 38-28 rebounding advantage, grabbing 18 offensive boards -- five by Garrett Jackson. The Trojans have now lost five of their last six.
"We got a little lucky at the end. We get the three foul shots and Allen makes all three," Montgomery said. "We have to learn from it. ... We've got to rebound the ball better."
USC head coach Kevin O'Neill was disappointed by the last sequence, but didn't question the foul call.
"It doesn't matter what I saw. There was a foul. That is a veteran crew of good officials," he said. "I thought it was a great defensive stop, great blocked shot. A call is a call. They stood by it and so do we."
Jones, USC's leading scorer, came on late after being held to seven points on 2 for 13 shooting in a loss to then-No. 12 Kansas on Dec. 22. Jones came into Thursday night's game averaging 14.9 points.
-- USC could not overcome some very shaky ball-handling issues, as the Bears scored 14 points off of 16 Trojans turnovers. USC had just seven team assists, while Cal turned the ball over 15 times, with 16 assists, led by Gutierrez's seven.
-- The Bears are now 10-0 in games at Haas Pavilion, this season.
-- Cal improved to 7-3 in its last 10 conference openers.
-- This was the 250th meeting between USC and Cal. With the win, the Bears lead the all-time series, 130-120.
-- The Bears held their opponent to fewer than 20 first-half points (19) for the sixth time, this season.
-- Cal did not commit a foul for the first nine minutes of the game. Kamp was guilty of the team's first foul with 10:51 remaining in the first half.
-- With four steals tonight, Gutierrez is just four steals away from cracking the Bears' top 10 all-time career steals ladder (Keith Smith, 129).
-- Cal scored its first 14 points in the paint. Gutierrez's three-pointer with 13:03 remaining in the first half was the first Bears basket to come from outside the paint. Cal finished with 26 points in the paint.