Jelani Scott | Sports Editor
On Saturday, February 11, Hampton Nation will be treated to HU-HU: Round 2 when Howard University travels down I-64 to take on Hampton University in a doubleheader on the hardwood inside the Convocation Center. In addition to the “friendly rivalry” fans come out to see, Saturday will also be Greek Night, Youth Day and Hamption Nation Winter Reunion so there is sure to be something for everybody.
At 4 p.m., head coach David Six will lead his Lady Pirates squad (14-9, 8-2 in MEAC) into battle against a Howard team (10-11, 6-3 in MEAC) who has won seven of their last 10 games. Following the women’s contest, at 6 p.m., head coach Edward Joyner and his Pirates (10-13, 7-3 in MEAC) will battle a struggling Bison team (5-19, 2-7 in MEAC) that has been bitten by the injury bug.
For some members of Hampton Nation, this will be their first time seeing this classic rivalry take place on the basketball court and they may not understand what the big deal is. Aside from the obvious historical implications of this matchup, sporting events has served as a way the two schools hope to gain an edge over the other every year. And this year is no different.
In order to get you ready for the 2017 basketball edition of “HU-HU,” here are 10 facts about the men and women’s matchups that you need to know before Saturday night.
Howard is without star James Daniel
After leading the nation in scoring (27.1 PPG) last season, many thought the Howard senior would have a breakout year and lead the Bison to a MEAC Title. Unfortunately, for both him and his teammates, an early season ankle injury has forced him to miss a majority of the 2016-17 campaign. It is expected that the Bison, who had a number of players injured this season, will be without Daniel again this Saturday, which further hurts their chances of winning.
Pirates’ guard Jermaine Marrow continues his tear
In the midst of the Pirates’ four-game winning streak, the freshman from Newport News, Va. has scored 20+ points, helping his team get the win and making more noise as one of the best players in the conference. Marrow is ranked 9th in the MEAC in scoring (15.8 PPG) and 11th in assists (3 APG). Look for Marrow to be a huge factor this Saturday night should the Pirates’ extend their streak to five.
Howard picked as preseason favorites but Pirates are changing that narrative.
The preseason MEAC polls pegged a healthy Howard team to finish top in the conference while Hampton, fresh off back-to-back title wins, was predicted to finish third. While some may argue that the setbacks are to blame, Hampton is currently fourth in the MEAC and Howard is third from the bottom. With the MEAC Tournament only a couple short weeks away, anything can happen.
Coach Joyner is 9-1 against Howard
Last season, the Pirates edged the Bison out 68-65 in Washington, D.C. and 68-67 in Hampton in their respective meetings. Those two wins pushed coach Joyner to an impressive win-loss record against Hampton’s archrival and he looks to build upon that Saturday night. This will be the first time in the past 11 years that these teams will square off, breaking what has been a steady tradition. This will only increase the stakes.
Howard head coach used to be a Pirate
Bison head coach Kevin Nickelberry has led Howard to one winning season since taking over in 2010 but has built the program up with solid talent. Prior to defecting, Nickelberry was the head coach at Hampton University from 2006-2009. His Howard bio reads: “During his three years with the Pirates, he helped guide his teams to 20 non-conference wins, collecting 49 Division I wins during his tenure, which ranked second among MEAC schools. He has also been responsible for producing 24 All-MEAC selections.” Coach Nickelberry may have had good times in Hampton but expect there to be no love lost on Saturday night.
Life without MTD may be bitter…
In what may have been the most shocking news for Hampton Nation this year, senior guard Malia Tate-Defreitas went down with a torn ACL in her right knee during the team’s 83-52 win over Delaware State on January 14. Since losing their star guard, who was honored earlier this season for becoming the Lady Pirates’ all-time Division I leading scorer, Hampton has gone 5-2. At the time of her injury, MTD was averaging 17.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 3.4 APG. Her loss hasn’t stopped the Lady Pirates’ winning ways but having MTD this Saturday would undoubtedly increase their chances.
But the Lady Pirates’ are still fighting
It has taken a team effort but the Lady Pirates’ have gotten contributions from everyone on their roster to make up for the loss of MTD. Junior forward Monnazjea Finney-Smith and sophomore guard K’Lynn Willis are just two of the players who have stood out. Finney-Smith is second the team in scoring (11 PPG) and the aggressive Willis scored 16 points in the team’s 51-50 win over South Carolina State. Willis scored a career high 31 points last season against Howard so look for her to come out and work that jump shot early on Saturday.
Both teams are among top in conference
Currently, Hampton is second in the MEAC and Howard is fourth. With only a few games separating the conference’s top-four teams, every game during the final stretch of the season will be huge. Expect both teams to give it everything they have Saturday night.
Coach Six is 17-2 all-time against Howard
In his seven years as Lady Pirates’ head coach, David Six has enjoyed a brilliant run of success. The Bison have been very generous to Six as they are the team he has had the most head-to-head success against. Last season, the Lady Pirates won the series (2-1) with Howard, including a close 83-77 loss in D.C. and a close 64-58 win in the MEAC Tournament. Coach Six hopes to improve his record with a resounding W this weekend.
Howard’s Te’Shya Heslip does not quit
The redshirt senior has been a thorn in the Lady Pirates’ side for quite some time now. Last season in the Bison’s win over Hampton, she scored 22 points and had 11 assists. This year, she is posting a career high in PPG (15.4) and is leading the MEAC in both assists (5 APG) and steals (4.1 SPG). Her season high in points (25) came against West Virginia. She also averages 34.6 MPG so the Lady Pirates should expect a heavy dose of Heslip, who looks to end her career on a high note at season’s end.