Illinois needed a career-high performance from Malcolm Hill to outlast Northern Kentucky 79-64 on Sunday night.
The senior scored a career-high 40 points and brought down 12 rebounds to help Illinois (2-0) fight through a first half where the Illini trailed 33-31 at halftime and struggled to hold off the Norse off until the end.
The Illini shot 44 percent from the field but were 20-30 from the free-throw line.
Michael Finke also scored in double figures, adding 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Illini.
Lavone Holland II led Northern Kentucky (1-1) with 13 points, which kept the Norse in the game until the final eight minutes.
The Norse held a 43-32 rebound advantage despite Northern Kentucky's tallest players being 6-foot-7.
Northern Kentucky was sloppy with the ball for most of the game, committing 18 turnovers that led to 21 Illinois points.
Illinois will play its third game in five nights when the Illini host McKendree on Tuesday night.
>>Delaware Coasts Past Bradley
Anthony Mosley scored 16 points, Devonne Pinkard added 14 and Delaware coasted to a 63-49 win over Bradley on Sunday.
Delaware (2-0) never trailed, opening the game with a 15-5 run sparked by Pinkard's 3-pointer and holding Bradley to just 15 first-half points. Eric Carter's layup early in the second half gave Delaware its largest lead, 36-15, with 19:20 left.
Cazmon Hayes grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds for the Blue Hens, who controlled the boards 45-27 and haven't opened with two straight wins since the 2005-06 season.
Bradley (1-1) outscored Delaware 34-29 over the final 20 minutes but couldn't trim the gap below double figures, getting no closer than 14 three times.
Alex Foster led Bradley with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Darrell Brown added 11 points and JoJo McGlaston 10 for the Braves.