TaShawn Thomas added 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Cougars (10-9, 2-4 Conference USA), who snapped a four-game losing streak and dealt the Pirates (9-9, 0-5) their fifth straight defeat.
Houston led 74-50 after a Simmons fast-break layup with 7:46 to play. What followed was a 25-2 ECU run, capped by a Robert Sampson jumper that cut the lead to 76-75 with 2:23 left. But ECU went 0 for 6 from the field after that, and a Miguel Paul free throw was the Pirates' last score of the game. Houston made four free throws in the final 1:12 to secure the win.