Raven McGrath hails from the small town of Grandview, population 1,575.

There could very well be more than that in attendance at Wisdom Gym when the sophomore guard is in the starting lineup for the first time in her career.

No. 19 Tarleton State (14-3) hosts Texas A&M-Commerce at 5 p.m. Saturday, and McGrath will start in the place of classmate Morgan Ashmore, who is out for the season with a torn PCL in her left knee.

"I'm probably going to be shaking Saturday, but Morgan will be there and she's good at calming me down," McGrath said. "It hasn't really sunk in. It's exciting but nerve wrecking at the same time."

And Ashmore promises to be right there when needed.

"Im not going to try to be a voice in her ear or anything, but I'll be like a sister, encouraging her and helping her if she has any questions," said Ashmore, who started 25 times as a freshman and in each of Tarleton's 17 games this year. "I'm confident (in McGrath). We played last year and have always been little point guard buddies and have each other's back. I know what she's capable of."

It's not as if McGrath hasn't seen plenty of action leading up to her first start. She averages 16.7 minutes per game and is scoring 5.6 points. She's roughly doubled both those stats since her freshman year, when she played 8.9 minutes and scored 2.7 per game.

"All of last year was like a transition period. I definitely had to work my way up to getting comfortable with my surroundings here. At Grandview we had competition, but nothing like in college."

And nothing like in the Lone Star Conference, which the TexAnns share with No. 6 West Texas A&M and four other teams with records of .500 or better. Even last-place Cameron is dangerous, as proven in its upset of the TexAnns on Jan. 18.

"Every team in this conference is going to fight, and you can't underestimate anyone," McGrath said.

Including A&M-Commerce (3-14), regardless what its win-loss record may be.

But Ashmore isn't the only one confident McGrath can step in and quarterback the TexAnns' offense. Veteran head coach and 1,000-game winner Ronnie Hearne also stands behind his new starting point guard.

"Raven's such a tough player and has really come a long way in a short time," said Hearne on Monday, before adding, "If Raven needs a rest, Kathy (Thomas) can play the 1-guard spot and (Brianna Bledsoe) can play the 2-guard."

Moving Thomas from point to shooting guard was a plan Hearne had just enacted before Tarleton's win against Eastern New Mexico. It worked to the tune of 44-first half points before Ashmore's collision with ENMU's Cassidy Doherty at the halftime buzzer.

"I was very excited," Ashmore said of moving back to her natural position. "Kathy is good scorer and I'm more of a point guard. I like to see the floor and find the open people."

Which is the role McGrath will attempt to fill on a more full-time basis starting Saturday.

"I was just trying to play it safe that first game and not make any big mistakes," said McGrath of being thrusted into the starting role during the second half against ENMU. "Morgan is a really good point guard, and I just hope I can see the floor like she does, because she has great vision and makes great passes."

Tarleton follows Saturday's home date with a Sunday game at Texas Woman's. Tipoff at Kitty Magee Arena in Denton is set for 2 p.m. Then its back to Wisdom Gym for the TexAnns' third game in five days when they host Midwestern State at 6 p.m. Wednesday

"We just have to rely on each other and focus on our game plans, get good rest, and eat and drink right," McGrath said of the tough five-day stretch. "The normal stuff."

Even if there is nothing normal about starting a college basketball game for the first time.