STANFORD — JJ Hones had seen it before.
Two years ago, the Stanford point guard was lost for the final month of the season after damaging her left knee while driving to the basket at Maples Pavilion.
Hones, a junior, could be headed for another heartbreaking ending after injuring the same knee Sunday, as the No. 8 Cardinal demolished No. 3 Rutgers 81-47 at Maples. She is expected to undergo a MRI exam today.
Making her first start of the season after recovering from a minor foot injury, Hones made 3-of-4 3-pointers and had six assists — one short of her career best. But with 3:10 left in the half, she crumpled to the floor, grabbed her face and shrieked in pain, a ghastly scene coach Tara VanDerveer has experienced too many times from the Stanford bench.
Although a diagnosis won't be determined until later this week, the coach expects the worst. "She knows,'' VanDerveer said of Hones, whose reaction on the floor wasn't exactly optimistic.
The injury happened when Hones tried to plant her legs to take a shot as the 30-second clock ticked down. But Rutgers guard Epiphanny Prince stole the ball, and it appeared Hones twisted her knee in the tug-a-war for possession.
''You try not to look down at her,'' said center Jayne Appel, the Carondelet High product who had 19 points and 14 rebounds in a breakout game. "You get the team together, and you say, "Let's win it for her,' and move on.''
Stanford (3-1) might
Looking nothing like the team Baylor upset last week, Stanford outscored the Scarlet Knights 34-7 in the final 14:52 of the half to take a 42-20 lead.
Using a 2-3 match-up zone defense effectively, Stanford frustrated Rutgers 6-foot-4 center Kia Vaughn, who had 10 points but four fouls in the first half. With Vaughn out of the picture Appel found her deft touch underneath the basket. She was equally as important on defense, keeping Rutgers' guards from making open layups.
Brittany Ray scored 17 for the Scarlet Knights, who also fell Friday at No. 7 Cal 66-52.
As impressive as Stanford played, the team couldn't escape the painful feeling of watching a teammate limp away.
VanDerveer has become resigned to the frequency of knee injuries in women's basketball.
Over the years she has lost All-American Kristen Folkl and Vanessa Nygaard (1998), Susan King Borchardt (2002), Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (2006), and Melanie Murphy and Michelle Harrison last year.
And Appel had surgery in late September to repair a torn meniscus in her knee.
Now, it might be Hones, the player VanDerveer called the team's soul.
"It just got a lot harder,'' she said.