Cal barely survived the smallest man on the court at Haas Pavilion on Thursday night.

USC's 5-foot-7 sophomore Maurice Jones hit three 3-pointers in the final 4 minutes, 36 seconds to erase most of a 16-point Cal lead before the Bears held on for a 53-49 victory in their Pac-12 Conference opener.

"We got a little lucky at the end," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said.

Well, perhaps. Ahead 50-49, the Bears ran the clock from 43 seconds to about 10 when Jorge Gutierrez's driving layup try was emphatically rejected by USC 7-footer Dewayne Dedmon.

The ball wound up in the hands of Allen Crabbe, who said he didn't know where he was on the floor but knew time was short.

"I just threw it up," Crabbe said.

USC reserve guard Eric Strangis was whistled for fouling Crabbe, who was behind the 3-point arc at the time.

Crabbe made all three free throws with 8.4 seconds left to ice the win.

The Pac-12's best free throw shooting team, the Bears had missed 7 of 13 before Crabbe went to the line. "I just told myself to calm down and take my time with each one," he said.

The Bears (11-3, 1-0 Pac-12) fought foul problems and allowed the Trojans (5-9, 0-1) to secure 18 offensive rebounds. But they did just enough to avoid a major upset at Haas, where they are now 10-0 on the season.

"Coach was saying if we have to win like this the rest of the conference, we'll take 'em," Crabbe said.

Gutierrez led Cal with 13 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Crabbe and Harper Kamp each had 12 points. Jones scored 17 for the Trojans.

Cal led 40-24 after Kamp -- playing with four fouls -- converted a putback with 13:36 left. But the Trojans amped up their physical defense, and the Bears became impatient and rattled.

After shooting 59 percent in the first half, the Bears converted just 35 percent the rest of the way. They also had nine second-half turnovers.

"They're going to push you in the back, and you just have to play through it," Kamp said.

"That's how they play," Montgomery added.

Cal entered the game as the Pac-12's second-best rebounding team but was beaten 38-28 overall on the boards. With sophomore forward Richard Solomon out for a third straight game because of a stress reaction in his left foot, Montgomery tried cobbling together different combinations to neutralize the Trojans inside.

But the bench trio of Robert Thurman, Bak Bak and Christian Behrens totaled just two rebounds in 24 minutes. Kamp had three in 27 minutes.

"We do need more rebounds," said Montgomery, who declined to say whether Solomon might play Saturday against UCLA.

The Bears led 48-38 with less than 5 minutes left when Jones heated up. He hit three in a row from beyond the arc, the last of them making it 50-47 with 2:22 left.

"I was just trying to take over and make something happen," Jones said. "My shots were falling."

The Bears were the aggressors early, making six layups and dunks for a 12-6 lead. Cal scored the final six points of the first half for a 31-19 lead at the break, but it got tougher after that.

"We just lost focus," Crabbe said. "We weren't executing the way we were early in the game. We slacked off and USC started getting more aggressive."

Cal-USC boxscore in scoreboard, Page 9.