The last time that the Hutchinson Community College men’s basketball team met the Pratt Beavers, the season’s outlook was looking bleak. Over the past 31 days that outlook has gotten much brighter for the Blue Dragons as the 2012 regular season heads into the home stretch.

Winners of eight-straight games, a streak that started at Pratt on Jan. 25, the Blue Dragons will take on the Beavers at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday for Pink-Out Night for Cancer Awareness.

Hutchinson (22-5, 9-4) looks to keep pace in the Jayhawk West title race. HCC trails first-place Seward County by one game. After Pratt, Hutchinson travels to Cloud County before playing host to the Saints in the regular-season finale.

The Blue Dragons captured their eighth-straight conference victory on Wednesday, going to Colby and winning 75-66. HCC rallied from a halftime deficit for the sixth time this season and shot better than 50 percent for the third-straight game.

The last time Hutchinson won nine-straight Jayhawk West games was just two years ago. After dropping the conference opener in 2010, HCC reeled off nine-straight Jayhawk West victories.

The Blue Dragons face a Pratt team fighting for its postseason life. Entering play on Saturday, Pratt is tied with Butler for eighth place in the west. The Beavers own two wins over the Grizzlies for an important tiebreaker.

Pratt won its second-straight game after starting league play 1-10, defeating Butler by 10 points on Wednesday.

Game Coverage
Internet: The Blue Dragon Sports Network will provide a live videostream beginning at 7:20 p.m. The link to BDSN can be found at BlueDragonSports.com and click on Game Day or Broadcast Schedule.

Radio: Blue Dragon flagship station KHUT-FM (102.9) and sister station KWBW-AM (1450) will broadcast live with Glen Grunwald (play-by-play) and Steve Carpenter (analysis) calling the action beginning at 7:20 p.m.

Live Statistics: Live stats will be available just before tipoff on Blue Dragon Game Day or on the Blue Dragon Sports Network Broadcast schedule at BlueDragonSports.com just before tipoff.

The Coaches
Hutchinson: Steve Eck is in his third season with the Blue Dragons. He has a 73-18 record with HCC. Eck is in his 14th season as a junior college head coach with a record of 395-70. Eck is in his 32 overall season as a head coach and has a 723-104 record.

Pratt: Jesse Shaw is in his first season at the helm of the Beavers. Shaw has posted a 12-15 record with the Beavers.

About The 2011-12 Blue Dragons
The Blue Dragons continue to recover from a 1-4 start in the Jayhawk West with improved play on both ends of the floor during an eight-game winning streak.

Entering play on Saturday, the Blue Dragons are 11th in the Jayhawk Conference in scoring offense at 76.6 points per game and sixth in the league in field-goal percentage at 48.3 percent. The Blue Dragons have shot 50 percent or better in 7 of the last 10 games. The Dragons are 11th in 3-point percentage at 31.5 percent.

Defensively, the Blue Dragons are once again second in the Jayhawk in scoring defense at 65.3 points per game, seventh in defensive field goal percentage (39.3%) and leads the KJCCC in 3-point defense (25.8%).

Hutch is averaging 73.2 points per game, 46.6 percent field-goal percentage and 30.3 percent from 3-point range during conference play. Defensively, Hutchinson is allowing 68.3 points, 41.7 percent shooting and 27.7 percent from 3-point range.

Sophomore Anthony Thomas is HCC’s leading scorer at 15.0 points per game, 14.9 points during conference games. He is shooting 47.4 percent from the floor.

Sophomore Mark Braden is averaging 14.2 points per game while shooting 48.9 percent from the floor.

Freshman Alex Davis comes off the bench to average 11.1 points per game, shooting 57.1 percent from the field. Davis is shooting 59.2 percent and is averaging 10.2 points per game in league play.

A.J. Spencer averages 7.8 points off the bench. Rozell Nunn is averaging 9.2 points per game over his last six games.

The Blue Dragons have lost the services of sophomore point guard Michael Spease for the foreseeable future after emergency surgery on Feb. 19 to repair a strangulated hernia. Spease was averaging 9.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

The Blue Dragons are a plus-2.1 in rebounding margin, pulling down 38.4 boards per game, which ranks ninth in the KJCCC. Thomas has a team-high 6.8 caroms per contest.

HCC turns the ball over 16.7 times per game, while forcing 17.8 turnovers. HCC averages 14.0 assists (Braden now has a team-high 66 assists, Thomas has 61 and Spencer has 49), 7.6 steals (Braden leads with 42) and 4.2 blocked shots per game (Davis is sixth in the league with a team-high 1.76 blocks per game).

Scouting Pratt
The Beavers are not bashful about bombing away from the 3-point line. Pratt currently ranks No. 5 in the Jayhawk Conference in 3-point percentage at 33.7 percent and is fourth third-best team from the arc in the Jayhawk West.

Five players have at least 18 3-pointers this season, led by Trae Beck’s 66 3s. Beck is shooting 38.3 percent. John Rutherford has 39 and shoots 35.8 percent. Bryton Hobbs has 28 3-pointers and shoots 27.5 percent. Armani Brown (39 treys) and Aaron Abram (18 treys) have both missed extended playing time.

Hobbs is Pratt’s leading scorer and is eighth in the Jayhawk Conference in scoring at 18.3 points per game. Beck averages 11.0 points.

The Beavers rank 14th in the Jayhawk Conference at 72.7 points per game offensively. Overall, Pratt shoots 42.6 percent and 62.9 percent from the free-throw line.

Defensively, Pratt is allowing 70.9 points per game. Opponents are shooting 41.3 percent overall and 29.4 percent from 3-point range.

Pratt averages 38.7 rebounds per game, but allows 41.0. Josh May has a team-high 7.0 boards. Pratt averages 12.2 turnovers and forces 15.2. Hobbs is second in the Jayhawk Conference in assists at 6.21 per game.

Series History With Pratt
This will be the 154th meeting between Hutchinson and Pratt in a series that began in 1939.

The Blue Dragons own a decisive 130-23 all-time record against the Beavers. The Blue Dragons have won five in a row and 8 of the last 9 against the Beavers.

The Blue Dragons are 61-11 all-time against Pratt in games played in Hutchinson and 53-7 at the Sports Arena. HCC owns a 57-11 record at Pratt.

Hutchinson and Pratt have met 11 times in the postseason. HCC has won 10 of the 11.  The last Region VI meeting was 1994. Pratt’s only postseason win over Hutchinson came in 1959.

Last season, HCC won 97-68 at the Sports Arena and 62-60 at Pratt. The Blue Dragons started their current eight-game winning streak with an 89-67 victory on Jan. 25 at Pratt.

PINK-OUT NIGHT AT ARENA
Saturday’s game will be Pink-Out Night with the Blue Dragons and Lady Dragons.

The first 2,500 fans through the doors will receive a pink shirt with a donation to the Pink-Out Fund. One-hundred percent of the money raised from Saturday’s endeavor will be given to the Reno County Cancer Council.

In addition to donations for the T-Shirts, which are being provided by Midwest Superstore, there will be a silent auction for autographed pink warm-up shirts autographed by the 2012 HCC men’s and women’s basketball teams.

Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets for the game are $7 for reserved seats and $5 for general admission.

(HCC Sports Information)