CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Freshman Brandon Paul is making an immediate impact for Illinois (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP).
The sharp-shooting guard was the go-to man for the offense in the first half of Illinois' 80-61 win over Northern Illinois, when he scored all 20 of his points Tuesday night.
"The first half we came out with a lot of excitement," said Paul, who led the team in scoring for the second consecutive game. "My teammates did a good job of giving me the ball. It was flying, it was going in. I felt good."
Paul had 14 of the first 21 points for Illinois. He finished 6 of 16 from the field, including 4 of 8 from beyond the arc.
Paul's outside shooting opened the lane for 7-foot-1 center Mike Tisdale and 6-9 forward Mike Davis. The two big men combined to shoot 7 of 15 with Davis and Tisdale scoring 14 and 10 points, respectively. Davis added a career-high 17 rebounds for his 11th career double-double.
"I knew they were going to shoot a lot of 3s and jack it really quick so I tried to get into position," Davis said of his rebounding. "I did a good job of that."
Foul trouble by Demetri McCamey forced Illinois head coach Bruce Weber to give freshmen Paul and D.J. Richardson more minutes, though turnovers were a problem. The Illini gave the ball away 14 times while recording only 15 assists. The Illini turnovers resulted in 17 Huskie points.
"We had to face that predicament for the first time here," said Weber of McCamey's foul problems. "The young guys didn't take care of the basketball, basically handed it to them, allowed them to get back in the game."
The team made up for the ball handling problems on the defensive end. Illinois had 10 blocks while holding the Huskies to 36.8 percent shooting, including 26.3 percent from behind the 3-point line.
Illinois shot 43.5 percent from the field. McCamey had eight assists.
"We made some plays," Weber said. "We're learning, it's all new. We took another step, and now we've got to see if we can take another one."
Northern Illinois gave Illinois (2-0) a scare at the end of the half, going on a 14-3 run to close the gap to 49-41 on a half-court buzzer beater by the Huskies' Byran Hall.
"It was a game going into halftime," Davis said. "The second half started out kind of slow so we had to dig in and get stops and see what this team's made of."
After cutting Illinois' lead to three on a layup by Najul Ervin with 18:30 left in the game, a dunk by McCamey off a steal and an assist from Richardson extended the lead to five. A jumper by forward Dominique Keller and a layup by Davis extended the Illini's lead to nine.
The Huskies didn't let up, trimming the Illini's lead to seven points with 12:27 remaining in the game but were unable to get any closer after Keller's dunk followed by McCamey's steal and layup put Illinois ahead by 11 and effectively shut the door on a Huskies comeback attempt.
Ervin and Tony Nixon led the Huskies (0-2) in scoring with 10 points each.