BERKELEY (CBS SF / AP) — Allen Crabbe controlled the ball, stole a quick glance at the expiring shot clock and tossed up a prayer. He got fouled, and how fortunate that his feet were behind the 3-point line.
Crabbe converted all three free throws with 8.4 seconds left as California earned a hard-fought 53-49 victory over Southern California on Thursday night in the Pac-12 Conference opener for both schools.
Crabbe retrieved the rebound after USC 7-footer Dewayne Dedmon blocked Jorge Gutierrez’s layup attempt. Crabbe was fouled by Eric Strangis on the left side of the 3-point arc as he heaved the ball up with the shot clock expiring.
“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.”
Cal didn’t count on it being so close at the end after leading by 16 points with 13:36 to play.
Gutierrez had 13 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and four steals and Harper Kamp and Crabbe added 12 points apiece for the Golden Bears (11-3, 1-0), who shot 46.7 percent and improved to 10-0 on its home floor in Haas Pavilion this season by holding off Maurice Jones.
Jones scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half and knocked down three late 3-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, then Jones hit from behind the arc on the next time down to make it 48-44 with 3:20 to play.
Justin Cobbs scored moments later on a transition dunk for Cal, which then gave up yet another 3-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 3-point try from the top.
Jones dished off to Aaron Fuller for a basket with 43.3 seconds remaining. Ahead 50-49, Cal called timeout to set up a final play with 13.6 seconds left.
“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.”
USC held a commanding 38-28 rebounding advantage, grabbing 18 offensive boards — five by Garrett Jackson.
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 lost 63-47 to Kansas, shot just 34.7 percent from the field and committed 18 turnovers that led to 18 points for the Jayhawks — not the kind of final tuneup for league play coach Kevin O’Neill hoped for. And his team didn’t look much better on offense in this one until late, shooting 33.9 percent and missing its first six free throws before finishing 7 of 15 at the line.
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.”
Gutierrez’s long jumper from the top of the arc with 5:24 left put Cal up 48-38, but Jones and Co. stayed within striking distance.
“We just lost focus. We slacked off and USC got more aggressive and started making plays,” Crabbe said.
Crabbe, the Bears’ leading scorer and last season’s Pac-10 Freshman of the Year who’s averaging 15.8 points per game, had only two points on two attempts in the first half but wound up with 12 points. Cal led 31-19 at the break.
“We got a little lucky at the end. We get the three foul shots, and Allen makes all three,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “We have to learn from it. … We’ve got to rebound the ball better.”
Crabbe opened the second half with a 3-pointer, and Dedmon picked up his third foul 12 seconds into the half.
Kamp made his first four field-goal tries and scored eight of his points just 3:22 into the game for a Cal team picked to finish second in the Pac-12 in Montgomery’s fourth season. The Bears went 18-15 last year and reached the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Cal, who began the season at No. 24 but has since fallen out of the rankings, won for the fourth time in the last five meetings with USC in Berkeley.
The Trojans pulled off a rare sweep during the challenging Bay Area trip to Cal and Stanford last season — their first time winning both games in Northern California since 1992. From 1993-2010, the Trojans went 7-29 at Cal and Stanford, with five of those wins against the Bears, two by forfeit.
USC has won the last three with Stanford heading into Saturday’s game at Maples Pavilion.
Cal opened by connecting on eight of its initial 11 shots — getting all of its points in the paint before Gutierrez’s 3-pointer at the 13:03 mark made it 17-8. The Bears bounced back after having their four-game winning streak snapped in an 85-68 loss to then-No. 21 UNLV on Dec. 23.
USC, which played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country, came in holding opponents to 56.0 points per game and still hasn’t allowed a team to score more than 66 this season.
The Trojans dropped to 4-2 when they either outrebound or matched an opponent on the boards. USC, picked to place seventh in the Pac-12, lost for the fifth time in six games.
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