'Unstoppable' Deloney breaks out with career-high effort to ignite UVM basketball's win

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Behind closed doors, absent of fans, Aaron Deloney wows his teammates and coaches on the University of Vermont men's basketball team.

"In practice, he’s unguardable, unstoppable," Isaiah Powell said. "It’s ridiculous."

Deloney knows it.

"He’s not wrong about it," Deloney said in response to Powell.

But the 6-foot junior guard lacks opportunities on a big roster and the patience from coach John Becker to get extended minutes.

That changed Wednesday afternoon.

The shifty, shotmaking Deloney flashed his potential when it counted, pouring in a career-high 18 points and igniting the Catamounts to a 78-68 victory over defending Patriot League champion Colgate in their nonconference finale in front of 1,964 at Patrick Gym.

"My teammates and coaches believe in me a lot and put a lot of confidence inside of me," Deloney said. "They know I can do in games what I do in practice. I just tried to translate that (vs. Colgate)."

Vermont's Aaron Deloney looks to drive against Colgate in a men's basketball game at Patrick Gym on Wednesday.
Vermont's Aaron Deloney looks to drive against Colgate in a men's basketball game at Patrick Gym on Wednesday.

Deloney, the former Gatorade player of the year in Oregon, made 5 of 8 shots from the floor, which included a trio of 3-pointers, in a season-high 18 minutes. Prior to Wednesday, Deloney entered just half of his team's six games — totaling six minutes in all — since he served a one-game suspension with three teammates after being late for a team function at the Gulf Coast Showcase in November.

And for the season, Deloney was just 3 of 15 from the floor before his outburst vs. Colgate.

In the post-game, Becker called Deloney the difference in the win.

"I’ve had a short leash with some guys, with him being one of them and I let him play the first couple minutes there and play through a couple mistakes," Becker said. "It’s really not fair when you do that as a coach. Guys can’t get into the rhythm of the game and not even break a sweat really. I gave him a chance to break a sweat (Wednesday) and it paid off big time."

Powell (17 points, six rebounds), Ryan Davis (17 points, four boards) and Ben Shungu (nine points, seven boards, six assists) came through, too, for Vermont (8-4), playing its first game in 12 days.

Vermont's Ryan Davis goes up for two against Colgate in a men's basketball game at Patrick Gym on Wednesday.
Vermont's Ryan Davis goes up for two against Colgate in a men's basketball game at Patrick Gym on Wednesday.

Deloney sparked a first-half turnaround and then the Catamounts' final surge late in a matchup that saw nine lead changes and four ties.

In the first half, Deloney checked in for his first action with 7:18 to play, his Catamounts trailing 25-21. He played all but 24 seconds of the remainder of the period, draining a pair of 3s and nabbing a steal in a 10-point showing to highlight UVM's 25-6 run to close out the opening 20 minutes for a 43-31 intermission lead.

"Aaron Deloney played his butt off," Powell said. "He can get whatever he wants out there, he’s so good."

The Raiders (4-9), without leading scorer Nelly Cummings due to injury, erased UVM's double-digit lead. They also twice regained the advantage and another three times evened the contest in a six-minute span.

Shungu and Powell 3-pointers returned leads to UVM, the latter for a 57-54 UVM margin with 7:21 to go. Colgate found level ground again after Tucker Richardson's layup and free throw.

Vermont's Isaiah Powell drives against Colgate in a men's basketball game at Patrick Gym on Wednesday.
Vermont's Isaiah Powell drives against Colgate in a men's basketball game at Patrick Gym on Wednesday.

Then Deloney connected on a wing triple for the go-ahead basket with 5:31 remaining. And ahead 66-60 with under two minutes to play, Deloney used a hesitation dribble and cut to his left to drive and flip off the glass for two despite post defense from 6-foot-11 center Jeff Woodward.

"I’m always ready. Whenever my number is called, I can put up those type of numbers," said Deloney, pleased to contribute to a victory. "That’s the one thing I care about more than anything. Points, stats, accolades are going to come but winning is all I really care about."

Becker said Deloney had been nursing an ankle injury. Healthier now, Deloney's explosiveness was evident Wednesday.

"He never let his frustration affect the team, affect his confidence," Becker said. "Let’s hope this is a start of what we think he can become for us — it would be a huge development."

Richardson (21 points), Jack Ferguson (16) and Keegan Records (13) reached double digits for Colgate, which was held to 6 of 19 shooting from beyond the arc. The Raiders entered Wednesday in the top 20 in the nation in 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage.

UVM won't practice again until Dec. 28, and will return to action Jan. 2 in the America East Conference opener at home vs. Albany.

"I think everybody in this program should be really, really proud of what we’ve accomplished so far," Becker said. "We’re a veteran group and we know the real season starts now."

Contact Alex Abrami at aabrami@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @aabrami5.

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: UVM men's basketball: Deloney's breakout game propels Catamounts