Tuesday, May 1, 2018

An Extraordinary Performance From George Baughan

TigerBlog starts today as he did yesterday, with a story from his Sunday bike ride.

Bryce Chase was there as well. He wanted to ask TigerBlog the same questions that he'd already been asked the night before by one person and would be asked again later by another:

"Is there anyone you could compare George Baughan to, and has there been a better defensive performance than Baughan's against Cornell?"

Baughan is a freshman defenseman on the Princeton men's lacrosse team. He had an epic game Saturday in Princeton's 14-8 win over Cornell in what was one of the best individual performances TigerBlog has seen from any athlete in his nearly 30 years of doing this.

His task was to guard Cornell's Jeff Teat, who was leading Division I in points per game this year and who had the highest per game scoring average by a Division I player in 37 years (Princeton's Michael Sowers was second in both cases, by the way).

To top it all off, Teat destroyed Princeton a year ago, racking up five goals and seven assists. Its possible that no other player has ever had more points in a game against Princeton than Teat's 12; at least, TigerBlog can't remember anyone who did.

In addition, this was a huge game for Cornell. The Big Red were locked into the No. 2 spot in the Ivy League regardless, but there was NCAA seeding, the chance to possibly play at home and simply solidifying its spot in the tournament field at stake.

As for Princeton, the odds of getting into the postseason weren't great, even with a win, but it was still Princeton-Cornell.

The pregame buildup was about Sowers and Teat, who are two of the most exciting players to come into college lacrosse in a long time. As TB said, they are the top two per game scorers in Division I since 1981, and they are fifth and sixth all-time.

Everyone in college lacrosse has heard of Sowers and Teat. Almost nobody has heard of Baughan. Or had heard of him before the game at least.

Baughan is from Wyndmoor, outside of Philadelphia. He went to Springfield High School, but not the one that won the Pennsylvania state championship. He was hurt in the preseason, which slowed him in getting onto the field.

His first big moment came when he held Yale's Ben Reeves - likely the Ivy Player of the Year over Sowers and Teat and the fourth pick in the Major League Lacrosse draft - without a goal or assist for more than three quarters before Reeves got two late goals. He also had a big performance against Harvard's MLL draftee Morgan Cheek.

Teat, though, was to be a different kind of challenge. So what happened?

The first time Teat touched the ball, Baughan was all over him. Teat tried to get free, and Baughan wouldn't let him go. Teat tried again, and against Baughan didn't let him go. Then Teat got rid of the ball. The tone was set.

By the time the game ended, Princeton had itself a five-game winning streak to end the year. Baughan held Teat without a goal or assist. Teat took just one shot, and he had only one pass in the game that would have been a goal had the subsequent shot gone in.

Baughan would cause four turnovers and pick up four ground balls. To top it all off, he would also outscore Teat with a goal of his own, late in the first quarter. It was an extraordinary performance.

The honors started to roll in for Baughan yesterday, as he was named the Warrior/US Lacrosse National Player of the Week and the Ivy League Rookie of the Week. He will be on the USILA Team of the Week when it is released today, TB assumes.

Quint Kessenich wrote this in his weekly Top 20 column on Inside Lacrosse, when he ranked Cornell 11th: "Who is Princeton defender George Baughan? And how did he neutralize Cornell's Jeff Teat? "

And now, to answer the questions he was asked by Bryce and others, the performance is similar to Damien Davis' in 2003 at the Carrier Dome in an 11-10 win over Syracuse, when he shut out Mikey Powell, holding him without a goal or assist, and then scoring one of his own.

The difference? Davis was a senior, a first-team All-America and one of the biggest names in lacrosse that year.

Of course, Teat has at least two more chances against Baughan, and Powell certainly got his revenge in the rematch against Princeton, when he put up four goals and four assists in a 15-5 Syracuse win in the NCAA quarterfinals.

Is there another performance that TB can think of? Not like that one. Baughan was extraordinary in the game Saturday.

As for whether or not there's another player whom TB could compare Baughan to, the answer is yes, there is.

Princeton has had some great defensemen through the years. In TB's conversations about Baughan, a bunch of those names were bounced back and forth, but there was really only one who came to mind.

Baughan is intense at all times on the field. He is wildly athletic. He seems to take his matchup personally. He plays, to use a word TB has used before to describe Baughan, nasty, which appears to contrast his off-field persona, where he doesn't seem to say much.

He's also No. 17.

Add those pieces together, and it comes to David Morrow, the two-time first-team All-America and the 1993 Division I Player of the Year. Is Baughan that good? It's too soon to say. His potential, though, is limitless.

If nothing else, Baughan's performance against Cornell has put him on the national map a bit. It's also made him one of the pieces that has the Princeton men's lacrosse team pretty well positioned for the future.

Princeton will return Baughan and, among others, its star (Sowers), its leading goal scorer and the Division I leader in shooting percentage (Phillip Robertson), the only player on the team with at least one goal in every game this year (Chris Brown), a starting midfielder (Connor McCarthy), the only shortstick defensive middie who played in every game the last two years (Chase Williams), the top longstick midfielder who had his own breakout year (Andrew Song) and a two-year starter on defense (Arman Medghalchi). And all of them are freshmen or sophomores.

TigerBlog was in Jadwin Gym a little more than 30 years ago, for the last game of the 1988 men's basketball season. Princeton had been eliminated from the Ivy League race with three straight one-point losses in midseason, and Cornell came to Jadwin having already clinched the championship.

Final score: Princeton 79, Cornell 58. It was never close.

When TigerBlog left Sherrerd Field Saturday, he thought back to that game, or actually what happened next. Princeton won the next four Ivy titles.

Will the same thing happen in men's lacrosse? Who knows. That's not the point.

No, the point is that Princeton is definitely pointed in the right direction.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

See Christian Cook outscoring Casey Powell 1-0 in 1998 semis.