NORFOLK (WAVY) – Once again, the Norfolk State and Hampton University basketball programs are ready to settle the score on the hardwood. For the 45th time since joining the ranks of Division I in 1995, the Spartans and Pirates will square off for round one of the “Battle of the Bay” on Saturday evening.
“We call it the ‘Battle of the Bay,’ but in our minds, it’s our conferences’ Duke vs. North Carolina or Auburn vs. Alabama,” said Hampton head coach Ed Joyner.
Indeed, it’s not just a basketball game. It’s a spectacle, with bands blaring loud enough to hear from the parking lot, sold out stands, and yes, even one or two cheerleader battles. “Of course great for the fans, and it’s a big rivalry that we definitely want to win,” said Norfolk State head man Robert Jones.
It hasn’t been the kindest of basketball seasons for either the Spartans (5-13, 2-2 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) or the Pirates (6-11, 2-1), but the two sides are still neck-and-neck in the conference standings.
And while NSU may have won seven of the last 11 match-ups between the two, the Pirates have won back-to-back MEAC Tournament Championships, and two straight trips to the NCAA Tournament. “So many years they’ve won, we felt like we should’ve been there at the end. So, hat’s off to them,” said Jones.
NSU will be led by Jonathan Wade, a redshirt-senior guard who has surpassed even Jones’ expectations, and is currently the third-leading scorer in the MEAC (18.9 points per game). “Did we think he was going to average 19-20 points a game? No. I don’t even think he did,” said Jones.
Hampton is led by a freshman. Jermaine Marrow, who averaged 30 points a game during his senior season at Heritage High School (Newport News), is now the Pirates’ leading scorer. Though he’s currently dealing with a knee injury, and may not play on Saturday.
Wins, losses, this stat or that, Joyner says forget about it. “This is one of those games, you throw records and everything out the window,” he said.
“It’s the Battle of the Bay.”
Tip off is scheduled for 6:30 pm.