Presbyterian-Illinois Preview

Published Nov. 20, 2009 11:05 p.m. ET

Brandon Paul was named Mr. Basketball in Illinois last spring, and the Fighting Illini guard has given a pair of in-state opponents a look at what made him such a sought-after recruit. Paul is the first Illinois freshman to record back-to-back 20-point games, and he looks to lead the 23rd-ranked Illini to a third straight win Saturday night at Assembly Hall against Presbyterian. Paul averaged 19.8 points as a senior at Warren High School in upstate Gurnee on his way to being selected as the state's top prep basketball player, an award won previously by the likes of Kevin Garnett and Derrick Rose. He is averaging more points than that for the Illini (2-0). Paul had a team-high 22 in his collegiate debut Nov. 13 in a 96-69 win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, then led the way again with 20 points - all in the first half - of an 80-61 win over Northern Illinois on Tuesday. "The first half we came out with a lot of excitement," Paul said. "My teammates did a good job of giving me the ball. It was flying, it was going in. I felt good." Fellow freshman D.J. Richardson was held to five points after scoring 14 in his debut, but the Illini got a mostly solid effort from Demetri McCamey, who averaged a team-high 11.5 points as a sophomore last season. McCamey had 10 points, eight assists, five rebounds and three steals, though he committed four of the team's 14 turnovers - and Paul and Richardson combined for five more when McCamey had to sit early due to foul trouble. "The young guys didn't take care of the basketball, basically handed it to them, allowed them to get back in the game," coach Bruce Weber said. Weber will get another potential ballhandler in his rotation Saturday, the first game junior Jeff Jordan - NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan's son - is available. Jordan was ruled ineligible for the first two games after participating in a non-sanctioned 3-on-3 tournament when he briefly quit the Illini in June. Perhaps Weber's biggest concern right now is defense. Illinois was third in the nation in points allowed last season at 57.2, but with senior guards Trent Meacham, Calvin Brock and Chester Frazier gone, stopping opponents on the perimeter could be an issue. "We're learning, it's all new," Weber said. "We took another step, and now we've got to see if we can take another one." Illinois shouldn't have much trouble in its first meeting with Presbyterian (0-2), which has already faced one ranked team. The Blue Hose shot 35.6 percent and committed 27 turnovers in an 84-41 loss at then-No. 24 Clemson last Friday. Presbyterian was much more competitive at Furman on Tuesday, but couldn't hold a 33-30 halftime lead. The Paladins rallied in the second half to win 68-64 despite Blue Hose guard Chase Holmes scoring 19 points. Holmes averaged 15.8 points over his final four games as a freshman last season, Presbyterian's first in the Big South.