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Owls Host Framingham in MASCAC Opener on Saturday

Westfield State coach Andrea Bertini comes off bench to greet her team during a timeout earlier this season.
Westfield State coach Andrea Bertini comes off bench to greet her team during a timeout earlier this season.

WESTFIELD, Mass. – Westfield State University's men's and women's basketball teams tip off the conference season on Saturday, January 11 as the Owls play host to Framingham State University in a doubleheader at the Woodward Center.

The women's game tips off at noon, with the men slated to follow at 2:00 p.m.

The Westfield State women begin a defense of a six-year run where they have won or shared the conference's regular season title, and of four-straight conference-tournament titles.

Framingham has positioned themselves as a primary rival for the Owls in conference play, as the Rams met the Owls in the 2016, '17 and '18 title games, with Westfield winning each matchup.

Framingham was picked to win the league in the preseason coaches' poll, garnering one more point (34-33) and one more first-place vote (4-3) than the Owls.

Westfield is led by junior forward Melissa Gray (Peabody, Mass.) who is closing in on the 1,000-point mark for her career.  The Owls sharpshooter sits at 951 points for her career, and leads the team in scoring at 16.7 points per game, and her 5.4 steals per game lead the nation.  She also ranks seventh in the country with 3.33 made three-point field goals per game.

Senior point guard Chelsea Moussette (Southampton, Mass./Hampshire Reg.) has been a mainstay on three-consecutive NCAA Tournament teams.  She averages 9.9 points and a league-best 4.3 assists per game. Sophomore Isabella Aitken (Pittsfield, Mass.), and freshmen Alison Mendel (Adams, Mass./Hoosac) and Lauren Legere (Bedford, Mass.) add scoring support.

The Owls come into the game with a 3-9 overall record, having played a tough non-conference schedule. The nine losses come against teams with a combined record of 73-31 for a .701 winning percentage.

For Framingham, the Rams (8-4) are led by senior guards Emily Velozo and Mary Kate O'Day. Velozo leads the MASCAC with 17.9 points per game through the non-conference portion of the schedule, while O'Day, a former player of the year in the league adds 16 points per game.

For Westfield State, the game comes on the 70th anniversary of the first recorded Westfield State women's basketball game, played on this date in 1950, as Westfield met American International in a game played at the Hope Church in Springfield, according to research from Westfield State Hall of Fame committee member Bob Farr.  While the Owls lost 49-37 that day, that game featured early women's basketball rules, played with six players on a side – three guards who could not cross midcourt, and three forwards, who played offense only! This is also the 50th anniversary season for Westfield State women's basketball as an official varsity sport, with records dating back to the 1970-71 season when five-on-five rules were adopted.