Liz Repella scored 26 points and Madina Ali added 13 points and 15 rebounds as the Mountaineers used their size and NCAA tournament experience to beat Houston 79-73 Sunday.
West Virginia started slow, then grabbed control with a 16-1 run. The Mountaineers were up by 12 at halftime and never let Houston get closer than three points the rest of the way.
The senior-filled club advanced to the second round for the second straight season and the fourth time in five years (2007, '08 and '10).
Next comes the hard part for West Virginia -- trying to do it again. The Mountaineers (24-9) haven't won back-to-back games since January, a big reason they slid from among the top teams in the country to .500 in Big East play and a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament.
They will play Tuesday night against top-seeded Baylor or 16th-seeded Prairie View A&M.
Brittney Scott scored 24 points to lead the eighth-seeded Cougars (26-6), who were in the tournament for the first time since 2005.
Courtney Taylor, the two-time Conference USA player of the year, had 17 points but was on the bench when the game slipped away for Houston. She sat down after picking up her second foul with 10:47 left in the first half and didn't return until after the break; the Cougars went from leading by three to trailing by 12 during her absence. She played the entire second half, but it wasn't enough.
Taylor hit a jumper with 3:26 left that got the Cougars within 66-63, but Repella answered with a banked-in 3-pointer. Scott kept nailing 3-pointers to help fuel a rally, but the Mountaineers were solid at the line to polish off the victory.
West Virginia's Asya Bussie scored 11 of her 13 points in the first half. Vanessa House added nine points, including a jumper and a tough layup down the stretch.
The Mountaineers outrebounded the Cougars 52-36.
Houston was handling West Virginia early, leading 16-12 after a jumper by Lesslee Mason with 8:40 left in the half. Then the Cougars went nearly 7 minutes without another basket. The Mountaineers stretched the lead to 37-25 at halftime when Brooke Hampton banked in a 3-pointer as time expired.
Taylor was back at the start of the second half, and made a difference right away. She scored Houston's first six points -- on a jumper and four free throws, including a pair after taking a hard elbow.
West Virginia recovered and stretched its lead to 55-40. Then the Mountaineers got sloppy, allowing Houston to score 10 straight points, all by Scott and Mason.
But the Cougars couldn't keep the rally going and the frustration showed. Mason got a shot blocked, then hung around the backcourt trying to steal it back and picked up a foul so silly that coach Todd Buchanan pointed to his head. Next time Houston had it, Taylor tried a 3-pointer from the corner that sailed way past the rim.