There will never be another one like the first one.
Tonight marks the 46th home opener in Mackey Arena history, and yet through all those years, and all those games, it is hard to top that game that started it all 45 years ago.
Yet, tonight's opponent Bucknell will be one of the more formidable foes for a first home game in recent memory. The Boilermakers have won 40 of the 45 season openers in Mackey, and haven't lost one since Nov. 21, 2000 when Central Michigan beat the Boilermakers 67-66 on a last-second shot.
Most expect the Boilermakers 11-game home opener victory streak to be in some level of jeopardy against the Bison. And since the onslaught of scheduling low mid-major teams to open the season, (and Purdue is not the only one who does this) the games haven't been all that compelling of late. The Boilermakers' average margin of victory in their last five home openers has been a robust 36.2 points, helped along by last year's 62 point win over Northern Illinois. So, not surprisingly, four of the games on my list of the top-five season openers is skewed to the early years of Mackey Arena.
No. 5: Purdue 96, Northern Illinois 34; Nov. 11, 2011
Yes this was one of the recent blowouts, but all that surrounded the rededication of Mackey Arena made this a very memorable evening. A capacity crowd saw the Boilermakers dismantle the Huskies, so much so, that the game was almost painful to watch. Yet, having a lot of Purdue's basketball alumni back, in addition to saluting the first team to play in the building 45 seasons earlier, made it a night that was very special.
The only thing that would have made it more special was if Rick Mount and the late Herman Gilliam could have been in attendance.
No. 4: Purdue 77, Tulsa 74; Dec. 1, 1969
Ok, I will admit that this one makes my list because it was my 10th birthday. But it was also a very competitive game where third-ranked Purdue had to fight off the Golden Hurricanes (they were plural then). Purdue was fresh off a trip to the national championship game, and Rick Mount was starting his senior year.
The Purdue Arena, as it was called then, was packed to the brim on a school night, Mount didn't disappoint as he was on his way to a record 35.4 season scoring average.
No. 3: Purdue 66, Kentucky 56; Dec. 1, 1984
Outside of first game against UCLA in 1967, this was one the biggest marquee teams to set foot in Mackey Arena in the building's history, home opener or not. Though the 'Cats had lost Sam Bowie and Melvin Turpin for the Final Four team the year before, it still had some major league talent in Kenny "Sky" Walker, James Blackmon and Winston Bennett.
The Boilermakers overcame a halftime deficit to win, but it took 13-of-14 free throw shooting down the stretch by junior guard Mack Gadis to get it done. He led all Purdue scorers with 15, but the contest also marked the first home game from Troy, Todd and Everette, a trio that would win a lot of games over the next four years.
No. 2: Purdue 90, Louisville 83 (OT); Nov. 30, 1983
This improbable victory proved to be a harbinger for one of the greatest surprise seasons in Purdue basketball history. As long-time fans of Purdue hoops know, the 1983-84 team, under fourth-year coach Gene Keady, was picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten only to become one of the darlings of college basketball that season with a Big Ten co-championship. The Boilermakers returned to Mackey to open the home schedule after pulling out a surprise tournament title in Fresno, Calif., and didn't disappoint.
Senior guard Ricky Hall, who would earn Big Ten Defensive Player-of the-Year honors that year, had his best offensive game of his career scoring 24 and seven assists. He also had seven steals, which was enough to keep the Cardinals and Billy Thompson and Milt Wagner, who combined for 46 points, at bay.
No. 1: UCLA 73, Purdue 71; Dec. 2, 1967
Yes, not only was this the greatest season opener in Mackey Arena history, it might be the greatest game ever played in the building. Tickets were going for $75 outside the arena (about $500 in today's dollars) as Coach John Wooden brought one of college basketball's greatest teams ever to West Lafayette.
Purdue had its chances to pull out the win, as sophomore sensation Mount had 28 points in his college debut. UCLA's Lew Alcindor was held to 19 points and 18 boards and had Mount, who was playing with a plate in his shoe to protect a recent foot injury, converted on a free throw and shot from the baseline with seconds to go, the Boilermakers would have pulled the great upset.
Still the game set the tone for what would become tradition in the facility: A very loud crowd, with a team that is a rare easy out on their home court.
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