HOUSTON - University of Houston redshirt freshman guard Joseph Young poured in a career-high 27 points to help lead the Cougars to a 62-59 win against Conference USA-rival SMU on Saturday night inside Hofheinz Pavilion.
Young posted his third 20-point game of the season and topped his previous high of 25 points set against Texas State on Dec. 30. The Houston native and Yates High product didn't miss a shot - from the field, 3-point line or free throw line - until late in the first half.
He finished the game 8-of-13 from the field and 4-of-7 from the arc and was perfect from the charity stripe in seven attempts while playing all but five minutes in the game.
With the win, Houston improved to 13-14 overall and 5-9 in C-USA games. The Cougars also won for the second time in their last three outings. SMU dropped to 12-17 overall and 3-11 in C-USA games.
Junior guard Jonathon Simmons posted 12 points and a game-high eight rebounds with two blocked shots, while freshman forward TaShawn Thomas added 10 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks.
Although the Cougars held the lead for most of the game, the contest wasn't totally decided until the final minute. The Cougars appeared to have control of the game when Young penetrated and dished to Thomas for a dunk for a 58-53 Houston lead with just 56 seconds to go.
Just eight seconds later, though, SMU forward Robert Nyakundi drained his sixth and final 3-pointer of the night to move the Mustangs to within 58-56. He finished the night with a team-high 24 points and was the only Mustang to reach double-digit points.
Following an SMU timeout, the Cougars took control of the ball and worked the clock down before what appeared to be a costly turnover with less than 20 seconds left. Leslee Smith stole a Cougar pass and fed point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas, who dished it to Aliaksei Patsevich for an apparent game-tying layup.
However, Thomas moved into solid defensive position and took the charge from Patsevich to thwart the Mustang rally.
Free throws from Simmons and Young in the final nine seconds sealed the deal despite a 3-pointer from Samarrippas with less than two seconds to go.
Trailing 20-19 late in the first half, the Cougars closed out the opening 20 minutes on a 9-0 run to take a 28-20 lead into the locker room at the break. Young led the Cougars during that stretch with the first five points, while sophomore guard Jimmie Jones posted four points after swiping a pair of SMU passes.
In the second half, SMU used a long-range barrage to move to within a single point on two different occasions but would never be able to overtake the Cougars. The Mustangs drained nine of their 14 three-pointers in the second half and finished the night 14-of-29 from behind the arc.
With the Cougars leading 41-35 following a Young jumper at the 10:32 mark, SMU used a 7-2 run to move to within 43-42 following a pair of free throws from Nyakundi.
However, sophomore forward Alandise Harris nailed a layup before being fouled to push the Cougar lead back to three points.
The Cougars celebrate Senior Night when they meet C-USA rival Tulane at 7 p.m., Wednesday, inside Hofheinz Pavilion. Prior to the game, senior guard Darian Thibodeaux and his family will be recognized in a special ceremony.
Fans can hear all Cougar Basketball games live on SportsTalk 790 AM with Tom Franklin calling the play-by-play action and Cougar legend and Basketball Hall of Famer 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.