The University of Houston women's basketball team took its first step towards returning to national prominence this season, making its first NCAA Tournament appearance and jumping back into the national rankings for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
Led by first-year head coach Todd Buchanan, Houston posted a 26-6 overall record and became only the second Conference USA school to go a perfect 16-0 in league play en route to capturing the conference regular season crown.
At season's end, Houston had collected plenty of hardware, as senior Courtney Taylor repeated as C-USA Player of the Year, while also garnering the league's top defensive player award. Joining Taylor on the All-C-USA First Team were Brittney Scott and Porsche Landry, while Buchanan was named the C-USA Coach of the Year, as well as a WBCA National Coach of the Year finalist.
"Words will never be able to describe how proud I am of my basketball team and my staff. It has been an incredible, fun ride this year."
Head coach Todd Buchanan following NCAA Tournament loss to West Virginia
Buchanan claimed his first victory at Houston and the 100th of his career on Nov. 14, 2010, with a season-opening 88-48 rout of UT Arlington.
Buchanan knew big things might be in store for the Cougars two games later when Houston overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to top NCAA Tournament-bound Louisiana Tech on the road. The Cougars outscored the Lady Techsters by a 20-4 margin over the final nine minutes, as Landry and Taylor combined for 18 of the final 20 points.
The following game, the Cougars claimed another big road victory to begin the season 4-0 for only the third time in 19 seasons, topping Oral Roberts in a 93-89 thriller. Landry netted a career-high 31 points, while Scott tallied seven of the final eight points to hold off a furious ORU rally.
Houston took a 6-1 record into the Duel in the Desert Tournament in Las Vegas, Nev., where the Cougars played some of their best basketball all season.
The Cougars opened the tournament on Dec. 18 with a 79-70 victory over No. 21 Nebraska, marking their first win over a ranked team since 2004, and followed with a 92-80 drubbing of Louisville, who advanced to this season's NCAA Sweet 16.
Taylor suffered a knee injury the day before the Cougars were to take on No. 18 Georgetown, and Houston dropped two of the next three contests to the Hoyas and Lamar to wrap up the non-conference slate at 9-4 overall.
The two-time Conference USA Player of the Year returned to the lineup on Jan. 6 as Houston opened the league schedule with a 78-48 romp of Tulsa as Taylor posted 16 points and eight rebounds in only 20 minutes of play.
The Cougars wouldn't look back, going a perfect 16-0 in league play, although there would be a few scares along the way.
Houston brought a 6-0 C-USA mark into Orlando, Fla., to face UCF, and found itself trailing the Knights by three points with two UCF shots coming from the free-throw line with 55.3 seconds remaining. UCF missed both shots, however, and Lesslee Mason, Taylor and Scott would go 6-for-6 from the free-throw line over the final 24 seconds as Houston got defensive stops on UCF's final three possessions for the three-point victory.
The following contest would prove to be one of the most memorable finishes in Houston history, as the Cougars overcame a six-point deficit with only 27 seconds left to defeat SMU, 72-67.
Scott started the rally with a 3-pointer to cut the deficit in half, and SMU missed the front end of the one-and-one at the free-throw line, as Scott struck again with another long-range bomb to knot the game with 15 seconds remaining.
Lesslee Mason then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and dished to a streaking Brittany Mason, who was fouled and hit both attempts from the charity stripe for the go-ahead points. The Cougars would also swipe the next two inbounds passes to seal the victory.
On Feb. 20, the Cougars cruised past UTEP at Hofheinz Pavilion to clinch the C-USA regular season title for only the second time in program history.
After achieving the feat with three league games remaining, the Cougars then set their sights on becoming only the second C-USA team to run the table in the regular season.
Houston would again use some magic, overcoming a 19-point deficit to top Rice by a score of 74-70, and needing an overtime period to take down Tulane on March 5 to reach perfection.
The Cougars opened the C-USA Championship with a gritty 68-64 win over UTEP in front of an energized crowd in El Paso, Texas, before seeing their school-record 17-game winning streak snapped in the semifinals against Tulane.
Houston earned an at-large bid to the 2011 NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed, and faced off against No. 9-seeded West Virginia in the Dallas Region in Waco, Texas. The Cougars trailed the Mountaineers by 12 at the half, and their patented comeback fell just short as Houston's memorable season came to a close.