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Last weekend, the members of the Penn women's basketball team joined their families to enjoy Thanksgiving, knowing that a torturous stretch on the hardwood awaited their return.

With tonight's game at Temple, the Quakers (2-1, 0-1 Big 5) begin a trying, five-game-in-11-day itinerary that will not be as easy to digest as home-cooked holiday meals.

"It was nice to have a break like that," Penn junior point guard Tara Twomey said. "The next five games are very important. We need to step up to the challenge and play tough teams and not get easy wins or we won't improve at all."

After facing the Owls, the Quakers play two games this weekend on Long Island, N.Y., at Stony Brook University. The following week, the Quakers take on a pair of teams -- St. Joseph's and Tulane -- that received votes in the most recent ESPN/USA Today top 25 poll.

Despite the grueling stretch that lies ahead, the Red and Blue are not worried that the eight-day layoff between last Tuesday's loss against La Salle and tonight's game will affect their play.

"Coach [Kelly Greenberg] won't let us not be ready," Penn sophomore Jewel Clark said. "Besides, the excitement is contagious; if one person has it, then it spreads."

In addition to continued strong performances by its starters, Penn will need its young and talented bench to provide an added lift to be successful in the arduous two-week journey ahead.

Enter Karen Habrukowich.

The 5-foot-9 guard from Newtown, Pa., is currently the third-leading scorer for the Quakers --averaging nine points per game -- and leads the Red and Blue with five three-pointers.

"Karen's doing well," Clark said. "She's not playing timidly like a freshman is supposed to play, according to the stereotype. She's not afraid to shoot and she will take it to the basket. And her defense is good, so she isn't a one-sided player."

The Quakers are looking at the next five games as an opportunity to tune-up for Ivy League play -- a dress rehearsal for the conference season.

"[These games] will make us better for the Ivy League," Twomey said.

Penn will also look to fine-tune its offense.

Although the Red and Blue have shot respectably from the charity stripe, knocking down 74 percent of their free throws, the Quakers have also struggled mightily from the field.

In its first three games, Penn has shot just over 39 percent.

"We have to recognize who to get the ball to and who's open," Twomey said. "We have to recognize who is having a good game and get it to them. We have to get it to the post players and just play basketball."

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