ATLANTA — Kentucky won’t change its approach going into a Sweet Sixteen match-up against Kansas State tonight at Phillips Arena.

Even though the Wildcats (26-10) are the top seed remaining in the South Region and favored to reach the Final Four for the first time in three years, they aren’t looking ahead.

“We prepare for every game like it’s the regular season,” Kentucky freshman forward PJ Washington said Wednesday. “We’ve been doing that since the preseason and every game feels the same. We just have to come out and just play our game and we will be fine.”

Kentucky avoided a potential second-round matchup against No, 4 seed Arizona last weekend in Boise and survived a close call against Davidson before ousting Buffalo to keep hopes alive for a potential ninth national championship.

As the Wildcats delve deeper into the tournament, the players are beginning to sense the significance of winning each contest.

“It’s definitely a lot of weight on our shoulders, but it’s just another game is how we see it,” Kentucky freshman Hamidou Diallo said. “We’re going to have a lot of fans here and it’s definitely a big advantage, but we’ve still got to come out and play Kentucky basketball.

Kentucky coach John Calipari doesn’t want his team to become overwhelmed with the prospect of reaching the Final Four, despite the team’s seemingly easy path to San Antonio.

Calipari doesn’t want the Wildcats to “drink the poison.”

“Buffalo had it, and they used it,” he said. “Buffalo talked about, OK, now they’re supposed to do this and this. I don’t care how the other teams use it. They can use it to their benefit. You can’t — you know, the poison is both ways. If they’re being down on a team or a player, don’t drink it. It’s a one-game thing. Just play and be your best.

Kentucky has been doing just that in the postseason and carries a five-game winning streak into the second weekend of the tournament. The Wildcats defeated Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee to win the Southeastern Tournament before winning a pair of games in Boise last weekend.

Prior to the team’s current winning streak, the Wildcats lost four-straight games for the first time in Calipari’s nine seasons at the school. Those setbacks proved to be a learning experience for Kentucky.

“We just tried to stick with each other as much as possible,” Diallo said. “We’ve all been through adversity this season, and we all know what it feels like. When we lost four in a row, we know many people had turned against us and people had counted us out. So, it was a little bit of fuel and a little bit of motivation. And we just ran with it, and we just tried to keep listening to coaches and keep trying to do what we’ve got to do on the court.”

Counted out before making a late run, the Wildcats are peaking at the right time.

“We feel like we were underestimated a lot this season,” Washington said. “We’ve picked it up a little bit and we’re playing our best basketball right now.”

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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