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While most Penn undergrads will have a number of sleepy weeks to reflect on the semester ahead over winter break, the Quakers men's basketball team barely gets a breather. According to coach Fran Dunphy, his charges will leave campus either on December 21 or 22, and will all need to report back to duty on the evening of the 26th. "It gives them a good three or four days to spend some time with their families," Dunphy said at practice on Tuesday. The Red and Blue will need to recharge their batteries well during that brief respite because Penn will play five games against quality opponents over the break, the final two of which will be Ivy League contests against visiting squads from Columbia and Cornell. "Our first goal is always to make the NCAA Tournament," Dunphy said. "If we had beaten N.C. State or Penn State or a few more teams early, we might be able to think about getting an at-large bid, but now the focus is on winning our league. It's our way of going to the tournament, and we need to be ready from the start." It's likely that the Quakers will get a boost at some point over winter break when 6'5" guard Duane King returns to the Penn lineup. The sophomore -- who underwent surgery to repair a crack in his fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot in late October -- suited up for last Saturday's game against Maryland and yesterday's contest at Seton Hall (IS THIS STILL CORRECT?), but will probably not check into a game until at least January 7, when Penn travels to Florida International. "Realistically, I think that Florida International would be about the time when you would see him," Dunphy said. "He's practicing now, but he's really had a lot of soreness." The Golden Panthers, who went 16-14 last season en route to third place in the Sun Belt Conference, are struggling thus far with a 2-6 record. Already having lost big to the likes of Hofstra, Providence and St. Bonaventure, Donnie Marsh's squad has out-of-conference showdowns with Washington and Purdue before doing battle with the Quakers. In Miami, the Penn backcourt will have to keep a close eye on 6'2" Puerto Rican guard Carlos Arroyo, who is averaging a whopping 20.9 points per game. The trip south is not all about basketball for Dunphy's squad, however. Always committed to providing the fullest experience for his team, the Penn head man sees the January 7 trip to the Sunshine State as a way to do just that. But before the Quakers can spend any time on the beach, there is business to attend to back in Philadelphia. On the evening of December 29, the Temple Owls will come to the Palestra. John Chaney's team started off this season 4-0 and sprinted up the national rankings. Since then, the Owls have lost five in a row and have dropped out of the top 25. Temple is hungry to bounce back, and the Owls' tenacious matchup zone will give the Quakers another chance to deal with pressure. "I think we did a pretty good job of dealing with pressure defense in the second half against Maryland," Dunphy said. "Temple is a high-quality opponent that always defends us well, and it will help to let us see where we are." Back in Philadelphia on January 10, University City rival Drexel will stroll down 33rd Street to the Palestra. The Dragons pack a triple threat of 15-point scorers in guard Stephen Starks, forward Mike Kouser and center Joe Linderman and always play the Quakers tough. Penn's winter break schedule wraps up on January 12 and 13, when the New York Ivies will visit the Palestra. The two-time defending champion Quakers will have a chance to extend their 21-game Ancient Eight winning streak against Columbia and Cornell. After that weekend, the Quakers will have 12 games under their belt and an early indication of how they will fare in their Ivy League campaign.

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