HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The University of Houston women's basketball team was able to hang on and preserve a 56-49 victory over Southern Miss at Reed Green Coliseum on Sunday afternoon to improve to 1-1 in Conference USA action.
The Cougars took a 28-21 lead into the intermission as senior guard Roxana Button poured on 17 points in the final 10 minutes of the first half.
With the Southern Miss (6-9, 0-2) defense keying in on Button in the second half, several Cougars stepped up to make huge shots and hold off a furious Golden Eagle rally to secure Houston's first victory in Hattiesburg since 2005.
The first clutch basket came at the 15:24 mark of the second half, as senior guard Michelle White drained a 3-point bucket as the shot clock expired to push the Houston advantage back to eight points.
The next trip down the floor, White found junior forward Jennifer Nwokedi for an easy layup, and Nwokedi followed on the next possession with a hook shot off the glass to push Houston's lead to 12 points with 14:07 remaining.
Sophomore forward Mae Woods also stepped up in the post, knocking down a jumper from the baseline with 8:04 left to play and converting a layup off of a missed basket with 5:50 remaining to push Houston's advantage to 11 points on both occasions.
Southern Miss then put together a frantic 10-1 run to close the deficit to 48-46 with 2:20 remaining.
Freshman forward Amanda Lawson was able to stop the bleeding with a layup with just under two minutes remaining to push the advantage back to four points.
After Southern Miss' Jamierra Faulkner split free-throws with 58.0 seconds remaining to push the game back to one possession, White dished to an open Terran Alford, who converted the layup with 31 seconds left to put the contest out of reach.
The Cougars fell behind early in the opening half but managed to put together two defining runs for the halftime lead.
With Houston struggling to find points and holding a 4-2 lead with 15:16 remaining, the Golden Eagles put together a 10-0 run in just over two minutes to take a 12-4 lead.
The Cougars wouldn't give in however, as Nwokedi converted a layup for her first field goal in a Houston uniform to snap the skid.
Button then heated up, getting on the board with a 3-pointer and following with another bomb on the next trip down to tie the game at 12 points apiece and force a Southern Miss timeout. Button would follow with two free-throws to cap off a 10-0 run and give Houston the two-point lead.
Southern Miss would answer with a 7-0 run to take a 19-14 lead, but Button wasn't finished, knocking down a long jumper and following with a fast-break layup for her 12th-straight point to bring the Cougars back within a point with 5:07 remaining.
Amanda Lawson then drained a deep 3-pointer and Button followed with her third trey of the half before capping off a 14-2 Houston run with a fast-break layup to give the Cougars a seven-point lead at the break.
Button scored all 17 points in the first half, going 6-of-16 from the field, 3-of-4 from 3-point range and 2-of-3 from the free-throw line. The Coppell, Texas, native also grabbed five rebounds and snagged four steals in 38 minutes.
Nwokedi and Woods teamed up to combine for 20 points and 12 rebounds to give Houston a solid performance from the post position.
Nwokedi, who was playing in just her third game as a Cougar, finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 24 minutes.
Woods tallied nine points off a 4-of-8 effort from the field to go with four rebounds and a career-high three blocks.
Lawson also scored in double figures with 10 points, while White scored five points and posted career highs of nine boards and six assists.
Houston's defense allowed the least amount of points all season (49) while limiting the Golden Eagles to just 29 percent shooting (20-of-70). The Cougars swatted seven shots and forced 23 Southern Miss turnovers.
The Cougars also had a breakout performance on the glass, winning the rebound battle by a 52-47 margin.
Houston returns to action at 7 p.m., on Thursday night at SMU.
*Houston improved to 13-10 all-time against Southern Miss and 4-8 against the Golden Eagles in Hattiesburg.
*Sunday's win marked the first time the Cougars have been victorious in Hattiesburg since the 2004-05 season.
*With 17 first-half points, senior guard Roxana Button extended her double-digit scoring streak to 14 games, marking every contest this season, and pushed her career total to 44 games.
*Button drained three 3-pointers on Sunday, marking the 10th time this season and the 68th game overall of connecting on at least one trey.
*Button played in her 107th-straight game, marking every contest of her career, and made the 45th start of her career.
*Junior forward Jennifer Nwokedi posted career highs of 11 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals in just her third game as a Cougar.
*With 10 points, freshman forward Amanda Lawson scored in double figures in her second game this season, with both performances coming in Houston wins.
*Sophomore forward Mae Woods swatted a career-high three shots on Sunday to go with nine points and four rebounds.
*Houston held Southern Miss to only 49 points, marking the fewest points allowed by the Cougars this season and the second-lowest output for the Golden Eagles.
*Houston limited the Golden Eagles to just 28.6 percent shooting (20-of-70), marking the second-straight game of holding the opposition to 30 percent or less.