Men's Basketball
Illinois Beats NIU, 80-61

Brandon Paul scored 20 points in the first half.
Brandon Paul scored 20 points in the first half.

Nov. 17, 2009

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Brandon Paul scored all 20 of his points in the first half, leading No. 23 Illinois to a 80-61 victory over Northern Illinois on Tuesday night.

Paul, a freshman guard, had 14 of Illinois' first 21 points. 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.

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.

Richardson and Paul struggled handling the ball at times, but the team made up for it 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.

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.

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 Davis layup 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.