It’s been all downhill since the first Purdue basketball game was played in Mackey Arena in 1967. But that’s nothing for anyone to be ashamed of. It was a classic befitting a grand opening.
- Purdue was opening a modern facility, transitioning from the cookie cutter fieldhouses of the Big Ten to something worth showing off. At the time, Illinois was the only conference school to have a newer and better arena.
- It was unveiling the most prized recruit in the program’s history, Rick Mount. The Sports Illustrated cover boy and 1966 Mr. Basketball had not been eligible to play as a freshman, so there was incredible anticipation for his debut. There’s a reason the banner headline in the Indianapolis Star the day of the game read “Purdue Mounts Up For Bruins.”
- The opponent would be UCLA, coached by former Purdue All-America John Wooden.
- UCLA also happened to be the defending national champion.
- And, it featured All-American center Lew Alcindor, the best college player of his era.
The game lived up to the hype, decided by a game-winning shot at the buzzer. Mount didn’t disappoint, either. Playing with a steel plate in his shoe because of a stress fracture suffered in the preseason, he hit his first three shots and finished with 28 points. He didn’t shoot well overall because he grew tired late in the game and missed a crucial free throw and potential game-winning jumper. Still, his performance offered a strong indication of what was to come.
The featured photo for this file shows Mount hitting his third shot. It ran in Sports Illustrated, which sent a photographer to the game.
More details of the game can be found in the “Stories” chapter, but you can see for yourself what all the fuss was about by watching the video.
Tagged with: John Wooden, Mackey Arena, Rick Mount