Appel represents toughest test for Junaid

Typically, the first game of the basketball season is scheduled against a patsy.

The formula usually goes: find an easy opponent, play them at home, drop 100 points on them and call it a night. But the Rutgers women's basketball team follows a different formula, the John Chaney formula — play anyone, anywhere, anytime.

The No. 25 Scarlet Knights are hitting the ground running Sunday when they face one of their toughest opponents of the year in No. 2 Stanford.

"It challenges us as a team to play the kind of schedule that the Scarlet Knights have always played and that is one that doesn't back down or hide from great competition," said Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer. "It starts right at the beginning with No. 2 Stanford."

The Knights traveled west to face Stanford last season and walked straight into the lion's den. The Cardinal put up a strong showing as RU fell flat, losing 81-47. The 34-point loss margin was the largest for the Knights all season.

They haven't forgotten.

"It's all about Stanford right now; I haven't really looked at the rest of our schedule," said sophomore guard Nikki Speed. "I mean, I know who we play throughout the schedule but I think I can say this for all of us, the only thing on our minds is Stanford. We're taking it one game at a time — they beat us last year and no one has forgotten that, so it's time to get them back and get revenge this year."

One of the biggest storylines of the afternoon will unfold in the front-court between the pair of senior centers for the two squads — Rashidat Junaid for Rutgers and Jayne Appel for Stanford.

Junaid will face the toughest task of the weekend for the Knights — trying to stop Appel in the paint.

Last year, Appel ripped the Knights apart inside, posting a double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.

Coming off a season in which she was named a second-team All American and Pac-10 Player of the Year, Appel remains the largest threat on the court for the Cardinal, one the Knights must contain to stay in the game.

To Junaid, the opener against the Pac-10 powerhouse will serve a good barometer for the Knights.

"Stanford is a great team. I am excited because it gives us the opportunity to see where we are at. Coach Stringer always says, ‘It's not about how we start, it is about how we finish,'" Junaid said. "I like it when we play top teams in the beginning because it gives us a chance to see where we are at. At the end, we will see how much we have progressed. I think playing Stanford will serve as a measuring stick of where we can be."

Knight Notes:

The Scarlet Knights will honor Stringer prior to tip-off of Sunday's game.

The head coach, entering her 15th season at RU and 39th overall, was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this year.

Stringer has amassed 825 wins in her career, with 305 of them coming at Rutgers.

New Jersey high school standout Daisha Simmons signed a letter of intent yesterday to play for the Knights starting next season.

The 5'9" guard was rated as the 11th best shooting guard and 72nd best player overall in her class by ESPN's Hoopgurlz. Simmons averaged 26.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, six assists and five steals last season at St. Bernard's School in Jersey City.


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