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Gonzaga returns home to take on a reeling Rebels team from UNLV

With Barta's availability in serious question, Stockton's return is pivotal

NCAA Women's Basketball: USA TODAY Sports-Archive Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 5-3 Women's Gonzaga Bulldogs are riding high off a three game winning streak, including a grind it out win on the road against Washington State. They had to win the game without their best player, Jill Barta, who hurt her ankle in the second half. Laura Stockton returned after missing four games, giving more depth on the perimeter.

Zykera Rice is having the best stretch of her life, scoring 39 points combined in the last two games, including taking on the Cougars frontcourt all by herself at times. She won't be getting a breather against the next opponent, a UNLV squad who has never played the Bulldogs.

After winning their first four games, the Rebels have lost the last three games played, including an 80-53 blowout to Buffalo. They should've lost their first game of the season to Portland State, a common opponent Gonzaga destroyed 91-52. UNLV was down by 21 points with 5:30 left in the game, but somehow managed to tie it up at the end of regulation, before winning it outright in overtime, 88-80. This does show that they can put up points in a hurry.

The majority of their points comes from their frontline, led by Katie Powell (15.7 ppg and 9.4 rpg) and Nikki Wheatley (13.1 ppg and 9.6 rpg). Their explosive player might be guard Brooke Johnson, who scored a team high for the season 25 points in a loss to Minnesota.

The reason why UNLV has just a 4-3 record despite having good talent is that they're one of the worst shooting teams in the country. As a team, they shoot just 38% from the field, and an even worst 24% from three-point range. In fact, only three players has made even more than one shot from distance this season.

If Barta doesn't play, the Zags still have a great shot to win this. It comes down to three key

Emma Stach vs. Brooke Johnson

Johnson is one of the only Rebels of consequence on the perimeter, which allows one of the best defenders in the country Stach to focus all of her attention on her. If Johnson struggles shooting the ball, Gonzaga has a great chance to win this.

Get the rebounds

Between these two teams, there should be a ton of bricks thrown. That'll lead to a ton of chances at offensive rebounds. If Barta is out that plays into the Rebels favor, but Rice and Chandler Smith, who had a career-high 11 boards have shown that they can hold their own.

Stockton's back!

Jessie Loera was phenomenal coming in as the new starting point guard while Stockton was out. But what Laura does on the court in terms of penetrating the paint is important in terms of getting opposing players in foul trouble. If either Powell or Wheatley has to sit for extended minutes, that could spell doom for UNLV.

This will be the first true road game for UNLV, and it'll come in the Kennel where the Zags have a 10 game winning streak on the line. If Barta plays it'll be 11. But even if she doesn't, don't court this team out.

The game is on Saturday, December 9 at 5:00 p.m. ET/2:00 p.m. PT. The game will be televised nationally on TheW.TV as well as the Stadium APP. Go Zags!