It wasn’t so much an exhibition as a learning experience.

It might not have been pretty to watch, but the UCSB men’s basketball team constructed a 56-49 win over Division II Cal State Los Angeles on Thursday night at the Thunderdome. As per custom in an exhibition game, UCSB made its share of mistakes in a game it never really had a stranglehold on.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “I told them before the game that there’s one thing you need to expect and that is you’re going to make a ton of mistakes, and we did.”

Senior forward Casey Cook led the Gauchos with 16 points, frequently curing dry spells with solid postplay. It seemed the notion of just playing against someone besides his teammates made Cook a happy camper.

“Its one thing when you’re going against your teammates and they know what you’re running,” Cook said. “But it’s always good when you can get out there against a team that doesn’t know what’s coming just so you can get a feel of where looks are going to be and who’s going to be open”

The game looked as if it was going to be just another lopsided exhibition victory when the Gauchos jumped out to a 9-0 lead, thanks to seven points from junior guard Cecil Brown, but CSULA had other ideas. CSULA quickly cut the Gaucho lead to 13-11 with 11:15 left to play in the first half, and continued to roll with precise shooting from the outside, while Santa Barbara threw up inverted versions of CSULA’s shots.

Before the Gauchos knew it, CSULA had taken a 19-15 lead on an Ivan Jackson bucket. From there, Santa Barbara would respond with set plays to relieve the stress put on the team by its new motion offense. Junior guard Joe See was the benefactor of the first play, coming off a double screen to receive a wide-open jumper at the top of the key. The next time down, Cook hit junior guard Michael Chambers on a backdoor cut to knot the score at 19. UCSB would never trail again.

“You never know what you’re going to get in an exhibition, shooting-wise. What I liked about the game was that it was a grind,” Williams said. “Nothing was going to come easy with these guys; they fought every screen and really competed hard.”

However, the rest of the game would not be routine. Only the late game exploits of junior guard Josh Davis would save the Gaucho Locos from biting their nails. After a converted layup, Davis hit the clincher, a three-pointer from the top of the key to put UCSB up seven with a minute left.

“I was just kind of taking what they gave us,” Davis said. “Coach got on me about being strong and being balanced in there and I just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and just knocked them down.”