Sloppily but successfully, the #25 UCSB women’s basketball team disposed of UMB Banska Bystrica of Slovakia 66-52 last night in the Thunderdome.

Twenty-seven turnovers decelerated the Gauchos, who couldn’t pull away from UMB until late in the second half when senior guard Debby Caine scored five points in one minute to help increase the Gaucho lead from one to eight points. Caine, who was forced to sit out the preseason opener last week in the first exhibition game, inspired an otherwise stagnant Santa Barbara offense with a team-high14 points.

“It’s good to be back, it was hard sitting the first game,” Caine said. “I felt good out there.”

Although they came out on top, UCSB received an education in the subject of ball control and patience. The Gauchos recorded only 11 assists, and sloppy passing burdened UCSB from start to finish.

“It certainly was a win that will give us many teachable moments,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “I would have preferred to work on a few more things: work on some plays, work on some defenses. But one of our goals this year was to go undefeated at home and I think exhibition games were included.”

UMB Banska Bystrica, a member of the Slovakian League, is now 0-6 on their U.S. exhibition tour, but they gave the Gauchos a wakeup call. UMB forward Andrea Belanska totaled 20 points on 20 shots. Both teams had considerable trouble finding the bottom of the net though, including typically efficient sophomore forward Kristen Mann. Mann went 3-12 from the field, but hit five crucial free throws down the stretch and finished the night with 13 points.

“They just weren’t falling tonight, but my teammates picked me up,” Mann said.

Sophomore forward Brandy Richardson provided optimism for UCSB with her solid play. Richardson, who seemed to solidify her starting role, was an animal on the boards, especially on the offensive end. Richardson found seven offensive rebounds and six on the defensive end. Richardson also totaled 13 points.

“Coming back my second year does help. I feel like I know the offense better,” Richardson said. “Tonight I just crashed the boards hard.”

With 4:09 left to play, the Gauchos trailed by one point at 48-49 and appeared ready to yield to the Slovakians. An intensified Santa Barbara defense and scrappy rebounding instigated a game-ending 17-3 run, highlighted by a Caine three-point dagger to make it 57-49.

“When we play good defense and rebound well, we can be explosive,” French said.

The Gauchos will try to work out all the kinks before they head to the East Coast the following Friday on Nov. 22 to challenge perennial Atlantic Coast Conference contender North Carolina State in their 2002-03 regular season opener.