LOS ANGELES -- The game was there for the taking.
But Cal State Bakersfield saw USC score 13 of the game's last 16 points to rally to post a 63-59 win at the Galen Center Sunday night.
It was the fifth straight loss for CSUB (5-6), which falls to 0-14 all-time vs. Pac-12 schools.
Issiah Grayson's 3-pointer with 4:25 left gave the Roadrunners a 56-50 lead, and Grayson's 10-foot hook shot over two taller defenders put Bakersfield ahead 58-54 with 2:45 left.
But that was CSUB's last highlight. CSUB missed its final four shots and hit only 1-of-3 free throws the rest of the way.
USC (7-3), which hadn't led since a layup by Byron Wesley with 18:31 left in the game, took the lead for good when Wesley sank two free throws with 1:02 left for a 60-58 lead. Wesley finished with a game-high 20 points.
Grayson, who had started CSUB's first 10 games this season, battled through a stomach virus that turned into the flu last week that kept him out of several practices.
He came off the bench Sunday to lead the Roadrunners with 17 points. He was the only Roadrunner who scored in the last 6:14.
"I'm proud of the effort," Grayson said. "We didn't back down from them because of the name on their jerseys."
CSUB controlled the tempo, often running the shot clock down to near zero before taking shots. The Roadrunners outrebounded the taller Trojans 37-33 and had a 17-8 edge in offensive boards.
The Roadrunners had a chance to tie it in the final seconds when a USC turnover gave them the ball with 12 seconds left and trailing by three.
Grayson found wide-open Stefon Johnson on the wing in front of the Roadrunner bench. Johnson, who is 3-of-9 on 3s this season, saw his shot bounce off the rim with five seconds left. The Trojans added a free throw for the final margin.
"I saw the open man. I trusted he would make it," Grayson said. "You don't make every shot, but if it happened again, I'd throw it to him again."
CSUB coach Rod Barnes said he had no complaint about Johnson taking the potential game-tying shot.
"That's where you want to be when you go on the road: to be in a position to make a few plays at the end and come out with a road victory," Barnes said. "We just didn't make the plays we needed to make at the end."
Barnes said the clock meant Johnson had to take the shot when given the opportunity.
"The game clock had gotten under 10 seconds and I had one timeout I could have called," Barnes said. "But you don't want to call time out. ... We had them in a transition situation. We had it where we wanted and we made the right choice with the pass."
Barnes said he was afraid USC would have fouled on the inbounds pass if a timeout was called.
"Then we hit one (free throw), miss one, they get the rebound and the game's over," he said.
USC was 30-of-46 on free throws compared to CSUB's 8-of-15. Bakersfield had a 61-36 edge in shots.
"Obviously it was one-sided free throws," Barnes said. "About half their points came from the free throw line.
"But our guys did a great job of hustling, a great job of rebounding. ...
"I'm proud of our team. We haven't played with this kind of enthusiasm, this kind of excitement, this kind of togetherness the way we did tonight. This game will be a huge help for us even though we took a loss"
USC first-year coach Andy Enfield was not happy his Trojans were outrebounded and added they missed too many free throws.
"When you miss free throws, get outrebounded and your opponent plays an excellent basketball game, you're going to have a long night," Enfield said.
"They did a nice job of playing their tempo and taking time off the shot clock. They have excellent basketball players and Coach Barnes has been around a long time and does a great job. We were fortunate to win."
Barnes said he isn't overly concerned with the five-game losing streak.
"You don't worry about it; you worry about how you play," he said. "In two weeks we start conference play. If we take what we did tonight and take it to Texas with us and play well then ... we've become a healthier team from a mental standpoint."
CSUB travels to Texas on Tuesday to face Texas-San Antonio on Wednesday and Texas-Arlington on Saturday.