BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - He stands as perhaps the biggest obstacle between the University of Cincinnati basketball team and a Sweet 16 appearance.
Iowa State center Kelvin Cato, at 6-foot-11, 255 pounds, showed exactly what he is capable of Thursday during the Cyclones' 69-57 victory over Illinois State, which earned them a meeting with the Bearcats at 4:40 p.m. Saturday.
Cato had a career-day with 29 points, 12 rebounds and a Midwest Regional-record eight blocked shots. His previous high was 21 points. He also had a career-high 11 field goals in 15 attempts.
''That may have been my best game as far as scoring,'' Cato said. ''But I think I've played better defense, and I think as a team we've played better.''
Iowa State (21-8), from the Big 12 Conference, is ranked No. 18 in the country and seeded sixth in the Midwest Region. Coach Tim Floyd is 68-28 in three years with the Cyclones, and he has taken them to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
This year's starting lineup consists of five seniors, but the marquee matchup Saturday pits the strength of Danny Fortson vs. Cato's finesse.
Fortson is 6-7, 260 pounds and solid
muscle. Cato is tall, fairly thin and able to disrupt opponent's shots inside the paint. The senior has played less than two full seasons at Iowa State after transferring from South Alabama, where he played one season because he was academically ineligible as a freshman.
Cato didn't play high school basketball because his family wasn't in one area long enough for him to gain eligibility from the Georgia High School Activities Association.
He averages more than 11 points and eight rebounds a game, he is fourth in the nation in blocked shots and holds numerous school and league records for blocks.
''You've got to make sure you take it right at him inside,'' UC assistant John Loyer said after the Iowa State game.
''Coach Floyd is probably not going to let me play behind (Fortson), '' Cato said. ''I'll try to stop him from catching the ball and try to stop him from getting offensive rebounds.''
Iowa State also has senior guard Dedric Willoughby, who had 21 points, despite going 1-of-7 from three-point range, and three steals Thursday. Also Thursday, he tied a school record for three-pointers in a season (89).
''Those are two pros,'' UC coach Bob Huggins said of Cato and Willoughby. ''(Willoughby) causes a lot of problems because he can make shots.''
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