In the late 60's and early 70's the "Little Three" - St. Bonaventure, Canisius, and Niagara - overshadowed Buffalo and Buffalo State. However UB head coach Len Serfustini believed the "Little Three" should become the "Big Five" because he felt UB and Buff State were both "growing giants."
The Bulls of Main Street traditionally dominated the Orangemen of Elmwood Avenue; UB fell only four times between 1927 and 1965. Despite the lack of competition, the games played at the Aud were a draw; 11,891 fans watched the Bulls defeat Buff State to finish the 1947 season at 12-5.
While Coach Serfustini thought of his program as a growing giant, growing resentment stunted the growth of UB Basketball. By 1968, Serfustini's 13 year streak with at least 14 wins ended, UB's black players threatened to boycott practices and UB dropped three consecutive contests against Buff State.
It was bad, but it would get worse. In 1968, Randy Smith suited up for Buff State's varsity team.
Randy Smith came to Buff State a three-star athlete from Long Island. Smith was a soccer All-American in college, but was drafted by the Buffalo Braves 104th overall when his college career ended in 1971. Smith helped turn his frontcourt teammate Bob McAdoo into one of the deadliest scorers in the NBA, played in the 1976 and 1978 All-Star games, winning the MVP of the '78 game, and played a then-NBA record 906 consecutive games. He still holds most of the LA Clippers career records, including points, where Smith's 12,735 points for the franchise leads Blake Griffin by over four-thousand points.
February 13, 1969 - Buffalo 78 - Buffalo State 83 (OT)
9-5 UB faced off against 11-6 Buff State for Thursday Night Basketball at the Memorial Auditorium in front of 1,562 fans.
Down 18-12 early, UB went on a 14-1 run to take a 26-19 lead. By halftime UB extended the lead to twelve, the score 40-28. Shortly after, the Orangemen went on an 18-4 run led by Bill Koslowski who had six points, three steals and four assists during the run.
The game saw fourteen ties and nine lead changes and remained close after Buff State's run tied the game at 48. Despite losing their lead, UB looked like they would win up 67-64 with 21 seconds remaining. When UB fouled Buff State center Howie Depreist, he hit the first free throw of the one-and-one and intentionally missed the second attempt. Randy Smith - who despite being a 6'3 guard had 12 rebounds in the game - tipped the rebound back to Depreist who scored to tie the game at 67. UB's final attempt by Bob Williams was blocked and the game went into overtime.
In overtime, Buff State shut down UB's leading scorer Ed Eberle, who scored 28 in regulation but only managed a free throw in overtime. Randy Smith however scored the first and last buckets of overtime, adding seven points to finish with 25. Down 81-78 late, UB couldn't score, and Smith added a buzzer beating shot to give Buff State the 83-78 win.
February 17, 1970 - Buffalo 75 - Buffalo State 83
With Buff State's Randy Smith scoring 25 points per game and UB's Ron Gilliam averaging 22.6, the 1970 game was promoted as the showdown between two flashy scorers. The 2,309 in attendance were not disappointed as Gilliam scored 30 in a losing effort and Smith led Buff State to victory with 22 points.
UB entered the game 8-10 and played underdog to the 15-3 Bengals. However, the Bulls played big with Gilliam pacing UB to a 36-28 halftime lead. The game opened up in the second half, benefiting UB as they developed a 14 point lead, 58-44. Just as in the previous year, Buff State put together a huge run to get back in the game, going up 62-60 with 9 minutes remaining in the game.
UB fought back to lead 67-64, but another Buff State run gave the Bengals the lead for good at 70-67. Ken Zak led Buff State with 24 points, including five straight late to extend the Buff State lead to 77-71, and the Bengals hung on to win 83-75.
Despite second-half double-digit leads in back to back years, UB still couldn't beat Randy Smith and fell to Buff State for the fifth consecutive time.
February 15, 1971 - Buffalo 85 - Buffalo State 87 (OT)
UB almost didn't get a chance to beat Randy Smith. Smith and Glenn Henley arrived to the game late due to car trouble and missed the first seven minutes of the game. When Smith arrived, he scored 24 points, third-highest in the game. UB's Curtis Blackmore had 26 and Buff State's Durie Burns led all scorers with 27.
In a tight game, double overtime loomed as Buff State had the ball with four seconds remaining in the first OT. Durie Burns attempted the game winning shot but missed, only for the rebound to fall to - who else? - Randy Smith. Smith hit the put-back as time expired, giving Buff State the 87-85 win.
Smith finished his Buff State career 3-0 against the Bulls, scoring 71 points in three games. Despite three loses, UB deserves credit for playing close to perhaps the best local basketball player of all time. Buff State's three wins came by a total of 15 points, and two were in OT. Yet UB had no answer for Smith in clutch time.
After six straight losses to Buff State, in 1972 UB defeated the Randy Smith-less Bengals 93-75. As UB's athletic profile diminished and the success of Randy Smith enhanced the profile of Buff State, the UB-Buff State games would continue to be extremely competitive throughout the 70's and 80's.