The UCSB men’s basketball team kicked off its 2005-2006 season last night by shaking off the dust and downing San Diego 57-36 in an exhibition match at the Thunderdome.

Both teams looked shaky in their season openers – with 8:15 remaining in the first half, the Santa Barbara lead sat at just 16-9 over the Division II Tritons before a bucket from senior guard Josh Davis sparked a 19-7 Gaucho run to end the half.

“I thought the kids played hard. They worked hard on defense but they were a little rusty on offense,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “A lot of guys playing out there have never played before and it was good to get them some minutes.”

The Gaucho starting lineup featured two players who had yet to make an appearance at the Thunderdome, forwards sophomore Chris Devine and freshman Tom Garlepp. Despite their inexperience, the duo combined for 18 points on the night.

Foul trouble bothered San Diego throughout the game – it gave up 38 free throws while taking just four of its own, handing the Gauchos 27 free points in the process. The UCSB defense held the Tritons to just 31.8 percent shooting in the first half and 34 percent for the game. Santa Barbara took a 35-16 lead into the half.

“Defensively, we did a great job of staying in front and staying low on [the Tritons],” Williams said. “We needed to work on our man-to-man and we got a chance tonight.”

With just nine players dressed out on the bench for the Gauchos, Williams gave every player an opportunity to play, including several newcomers. Sophomore forward Chidi Ajufo led Santa Barbara with 13 points in 19 minutes, while Devine added 10 and was perfect from the floor.

“This was a good performance by Chidi in his first game,” Williams said. “He gave us some good minutes and I think, come January and February, he is going to be a key component to this team.”

Although the Gaucho defense forced 19 turnovers, the offense had trouble putting plays together. Santa Barbara shot just 42.5 percent for the game and did not connect on any shots from beyond the arc. With a 60.5-percent night from the charity stripe, UCSB has a lot to focus on before its next game – another exhibition – against Westmont, next week.

“There is all kinds of stuff we need to work on,” Williams said. “We’re going to watch lots of film. Tomorrow will be a heavy film day and we’ll have to try to clean up the offense.”