Georgia guard Maya Caldwell (11) looks for a shot. The University of Georgia women’s basketball team defeated the University of South Carolina Upstate 67-53 in regular time on Nov. 26, 2019, in Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

The Georgia women’s basketball team soundly defeated Butler 69-36 in the inaugural game of the Daytona Beach Invitational tournament on Friday. In its best defensive outing of the season, Georgia held a team who averaged 72.6 points per game to under 40 points.

Junior guard Maya Caldwell recorded a game-high 17 points while grabbing five rebounds and four steals. Fellow junior Gabby Connally scored 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting and added four assists and two steals.

“For the first time in a long time, I saw signs of that old Georgia defense that we are used to,” head coach Joni Taylor said. “Coming into this game, we knew we had to take care of the basketball, and we were able to do that.”

The Bulldogs have consistently struggled with turnovers this year. Against Butler, it was more of the same. Georgia turned the ball over 23 times but took care of the ball in the game’s biggest moments.

Freshman forward Javyn Nicholson logged a season-high 17 minutes, logging nine points, two rebounds and a block. Nicholson’s playing time has increased as redshirt junior Jenna Staiti’s time on the floor is toned back. Staiti played just 12 minutes on Friday.

Nicholson played an especially great third quarter, when she scored five points. The second half was the turning point for a Georgia defense that is beginning to round into form.

“Defensively, holding them below their season average was big for us,” Taylor said. “Our entire team stepped up today, and I am so proud of their effort and poise.”

At the beginning of the season, Taylor said she was excited about the potential of this year’s team in regards to offensive versatility. That vision showed itself in this game as the Bulldogs beat Butler in just about every category possible.

Georgia out-rebounded Butler 43-30 and managed 13 assists to the opposing four. Those numbers alone are good enough to be catalysts for a win.

The most impressive stat from the win came from Georgia’s defense. The Bulldogs held Butler, a proficient offense, to just 8-for-46 shooting and 0-for-10 from three.

Friday’s win is a confidence booster for Georgia, who has two tough losses already on its résumé.

The 5-2 Bulldogs will take on Virginia Tech on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. The Hokies are undefeated at 6-0 and will provide Georgia with another defensive challenge.

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