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NORMAL - Holly Hallstrom has found her comfort zone for the Illinois State women's basketball team.

And it's making the opposition extremely uncomfortable.

The 6-foot-2 Hallstrom, who was forced to play center last season after transferring from Kirkwood Community College, has returned to her natural power forward position.

Talk about your power moves.

Hallstrom is averaging a team-high 15.2 points and 8.8 rebounds while helping lead ISU to a 4-1 record ahead of tonight's 7:05 game against Wisconsin-Green Bay at Redbird Arena. The Moline High School graduate averaged 7.4 points and 7.3 rebounds a year ago.

"I have nothing against being a center, but I just feel more comfortable on the floor as a forward," said Hallstrom, who is ISU's only senior. "It enables me to take the 15-foot jump shot, and I have a little more leeway to drive this year."

Third-year ISU coach Robin Pingeton needed Hallstrom in the post last season. The emergence of 6-5 freshman Nicolle Lewis has freed Hallstrom to move farther outside the paint and created a matchup nightmare for defenses.

"With her explosiveness and great quickness, it seems like she's been a tough matchup for other teams so far," Pingeton said. "She's very athletic and she jumps extremely well."

A year of experience facing Division I competition has also fueled Hallstrom's success.

"I think having a year under your belt at the Division I level makes a very big difference," Pingeton said.

ISU is coming off a seven-day layoff following its 65-61 loss at Ball State Nov. 30 which ended the fastest start by a Redbird team in 22 years. The Redbirds continued a season-long trend against Ball State by falling behind 31-16 at halftime.

"In a way I'm glad those poor first halves finally caught up with us," Pingeton said. "Our success was reinforcing bad habits. We have to learn to put two halves together."

McCracken update

Pingeton said junior guard Megan McCracken remains on track to return later this month after being sidelined the entire season with a stress fracture in her right hip. McCracken is the Redbirds' top returning scorer.

"She is off crutches and doing some cardio workouts and some non-impact shooting," Pingeton said. "She gets re-evaluated on Dec. 15. From the doctor's reports they feel like there has been some healing in the fracture and they are very optimistic when she is healed it will be a done deal.

"As much as we would love to have her in some of these nonconference games, we want to be real smart about it and take our time so we get a full recovery and have her healthy for the second half of the season. We can't wait to get her back."

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