HOUSTON - Junior guard Jonathon Simmons posted a career-high 28 points, and freshman forward TaShawn Thomas added his team-leading seventh double-double of the season to lead the University of Houston men's basketball team to a 73-71 win over Southern Miss on Saturday night inside Hofheinz Pavilion.
Simmons converted 10-of-18 shots from the field, including a momentum-turning 3-pointer at the end of the first half, on the way to his team-leading seventh 20-point game of the season. He topped his previous high of 26 points at Texas State on Dec. 6.
Thomas scored 11 points and grabbed a team-high 11 boards, including five off the offensive glass, to lead the Cougars. The Killeen, Texas, native also led all players with three blocked shots and added a steal and an assist in 34 minutes.
Sophomore forward Alandise Harris scored 11 points with seven rebounds, and redshirt freshman guard Joseph Young added 10 points with four rebounds and two assists.
With the win, Houston improved to 12-13 overall and 4-8 in C-USA games. Southern Miss dropped to 22-5 overall and 9-3 in C-USA games.
With the Cougars leading 49-44 midway through the second half, Southern Miss used a 9-0 run to build a 53-49 advantage following Torye Pelham's steal and layup with 8:40 left in the contest.
However, Houston answered with an impressive run of its own. Refusing to wilt, the Cougars used a 14-5 run during the next 4:20 and grabbed a 63-58 lead when Young buried a 3-pointer with just 4:20 to go.
Southern Miss scored the next four points and pulled to within 63-62 when Jonathan Mills grabbed the offensive rebound after his own miss and put it back in with 1:35 left. However, that would be as close as the Golden Eagles would come the rest of the way.
Harris was fouled with 1:07 left and drained both free throws for a 65-62 Cougar lead. On the ensuing possession, USM missed two shots, including a 3-pointer from LaShay Page before senior guard Darian Thibodeaux grabbed the defensive rebound.
Young was fouled and went to the line for a 1-and-1 but missed his first attempt. The Golden Eagles quickly brought the ball up the court and looked ready to move closer when Neil Watson drove the baseline and put the ball up. However, Thomas knocked the ball down and grabbed the defensive rebound.
Southern Miss hit three 3-pointers in the final eight seconds to keep the game close, but the Cougars converted four free throws during that time to ice the win.
The Cougars raced out to a 38-27 lead in the first half, thanks to a 10-0 run to cap the opening 20 minutes. Simmons drained a 3-pointer to send Houston into the locker room on a high note.
Watson led the Golden Eagles with 27 points, thanks to five 3-pointers, while Mills added 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds for the Golden Eagles in the loss.
The Cougars hit the road to face C-USA rival Marshall at 6 p.m. (CST)/ 7 p.m. (EST) Wednesday inside the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington, W.Va.
From there, the Cougars return to Hofheinz Pavilion to close out their regular-season home schedule. Houston plays host to SMU on Feb. 25 and then meets Tulane on Feb. 29 with both games enjoying 7 p.m., starts.
The Tulane game on Feb. 29 will be part of Senior Night activities for guard Darian Thibodeaux and his family.
Fans can hear all Cougar Basketball games live on SportsTalk 790 AM with Tom Franklin calling the play-by-play action and Cougar legend Elvin Hayes providing analysis. The pregame show is slated to begin 15 minutes before tipoff.
Fans can follow live scoring by clicking the "GameTracker" link at UHCougars.com.
Fans also can hear live audio and watch live video via Cougar All-Access at UHCougars.com. Fans should note that a charge is required to watch and hear streamed games on-line.
Single-game tickets are now on sale at the Houston Athletics Ticket Office. Fans can purchase their tickets by calling 713-GO-COOGS (462-6647) or by visiting UHCougars.com and clicking the Tickets tab and following the appropriate links or by clicking the Tickets link here.
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