NORMAL - Holly Hallstrom couldn't decide which was more difficult Sunday at Redbird Arena:
Facing Creighton's physical front line or addressing the crowd after the game as the Illinois State women's basketball team's lone Senior Day representative.
"I'd say both," Hallstrom said. "I just looked at it like any other game. I didn't think, 'OK, this is my last game here' because obviously I probably would have been crying up and down the court the whole time. I just wanted to leave it all out on the court."
Hallstrom left everything, collecting 20 points and 12 rebounds in sparking ISU to a 75-61 Missouri Valley Conference win over the struggling Bluejays before a crowd of 1,764.
"It's a sad day but a good day," Hallstrom said. "We got a win."
Hallstrom, a 6-foot-2 forward from Moline, was 7 of 15 from the field while posting her 10th double-double of the season and sixth in the last nine games.
"Holly is a very emotional kid, and I knew today would be very tough for her," said ISU coach Robin Pingeton. "I talked to her a little bit before the game and she had some emotions and I said, 'You're a senior and we have a young team, and they can't handle seeing your emotion before the game. You've got to step to the plate and come through for us.'
"I thought she played relentless on the boards again. She struggled a little offensively early but she came up with another double-double."
ISU used a 16-2 run midway through the second half and outrebounded Creighton 40-26 to break open a tight game and improve to 11-14 overall and 6-10 in the Valley.
The Redbirds also took over sole possession of seventh place in the league while moving within one-half game of sixth place and a first-round bye in next month's conference tournament.
"We've been upfront with our kids about what has to happen the next couple of games for us to be in a situation where we don't have to play that first-round game," Pingeton said. "Our kids understand that every game is a must-win game for us.
"At the shootaround today we challenged them to up the intensity level and up the effort. I felt for about 37 minutes we played very good basketball. It speaks volumes about our kids just the poise they showed out there on the court."
Creighton (6-18, 4-12), which was led by senior forward Angie Janis' game-high 27 points, extended its school-record losing streak to 12 games despite keeping it close for 30 minutes.
ISU held a 52-50 lead with 10 minutes remaining when freshman reserve guard Brooke Singleton ignited the game-breaking 16-2 flurry. Singleton sank a driving jumper and, seconds later, stole a pass and drove in for a layup to put the Redbirds ahead 57-50.
"You just never know when your time is going to come," Singleton said. "So when my name was called out I just went out there and gave it my all for the team."
"I thought Brooke was the difference," Pingeton said. "She had a little stretch in about 30 seconds that was huge for our team."
The Redbirds eventually extended the lead to 68-52 in completing their first season sweep of Creighton. ISU shot 56 percent in the second half and 52 percent overall, including a 5-of-10 performance from behind the 3-point arc.
Freshman point guard Kristi Cirone had 18 points and five assists for ISU, and sophomore forward Amber Shelton added 13 points. ISU's bench outscored Creighton's reserves 17-6.
"You look at a team like Creighton which has struggled with injuries and things like that, but they still have a roster of veteran ballplayers," Pingeton said. "For us to be as young as we are and finally be able to show some poise during their runs and execute down the stretch, it says a lot about how far our team has come in the last month."
Creighton, which shot 40 percent, received 11 points from Ally Thrall and 10 from Amy Hoffman. Senior guard Kristi Woodard reinjured her shoulder early in the second half and didn't return for the Bluejays.
"We played pretty well in stretches, but I didn't think we did enough to win a road game," said Creighton coach Jim Flanery. "The fact is we didn't defend and we didn't rebound."
ISU will end the regular season this week with road games against Evansville Wednesday and Southern Illinois Saturday.