BROOKFIELD - McDonald's Anthony Pugh takes his free-throw shooting very seriously.
The junior point guard finds shots from the charity stripe so important that during the Blue Devils' 55-43 win over Brookfield, Pugh was a little frustrated with the one miss in his 15-of-16 performance from the line, which came on his last free throw with 48.9 seconds remaining in the game.
"I think as a point guard, you have to make those," said Pugh, who recorded a game-high 24 points. "They're free ones, so I think I've taken advantage of that and make most of mine - except that last one. I was kind of upset, but you know, it happens. We got the win - that's all that really matters."
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is brought down by Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley during the first half of the Orange Bowl on Friday night. The Tigers beat the Buckeyes, 40-35.
While Pugh's free-throw shooting performance was impressive, coach Jeff Rasile pointed to his overall play as the reason McDonald (6-2) managed to overcome subpar offensive outputs from seniors Matt Seitz and Kenny Greaver, who combined for 14 points.
The 5-foot-8 point guard limited the number of turnovers, especially when the Warriors (6-3) cranked up the pressure in the second quarter with a 1-3-1 trap. Pugh also dished out five assists, including two on McDonald's first two possessions of the fourth quarter. He played a big role in the Blue Devils' 15-0 run over the final minute of the third and first minute-a-half of the fourth to take a 12-point lead that proved insurmountable.
"The thing he's done tonight that he hasn't done all season is take care of the basketball," Rasile said. "He probably had a couple of turnovers tops. In the season, he's averaging too many turnovers, and we talked to him about decision-making. He controlled the game tonight - it's exactly what we expect from him."
Coming out of the gates, the Warriors couldn't buy a point. They started the game going 0 of 16 from the field and didn't a point in the first quarter, as the Blue Devils took a nine-point lead. Brookfield's first point of the game came at the 7:40 mark in the second on a Jamar Tarver jumper, and the Warriors pulled to within one point during the first minute-and-a-half of the second period.
The cold start from the field continued, however, as Brookfield shot just 13.3 percent in the first half.
"I think our guys were looking around waiting to get something going - it just never happened in that first quarter," Brookfield coach Bill Kovach said. "A lot of that goes to (McDonald), a lot of that goes to us just missing bunnies. I hope we learned a lot about being ready to play because I feel like when we came out tonight, we weren't ready."
The Warriors still found themselves in the game late in the third quarter, when Tarver, who amassed 18 points, hit another jumper at the 3:10 mark to take a short-lived lead.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game," Rasile said. "Brookfield is well-coached, we knew they were going to play great defense, they were going to be very physical. So, that really didn't surprise me. But the kids gutted it out and played pretty well."
Pugh said gritting out a win at Brookfield will play a role for seeding down the road as well as being a confidence booster to start the new year.
"I know it's down the road, but we're playing for seeding right now and this is a huge win for us and for our seeding in the tournament," Pugh said. "You obviously want to get that high seed, so I think this is a huge win and a huge confidence booster for all of us."