Heading into the title game of the Horizon League’s women’s tournament Tuesday, Michal Miller has added a new affliction to a body that already is something a medical melange.
The Wright State junior guard wears a clear plastic mask affixed with black straps across her face to prevent suffering more damage to her already battered nose.
She’s broken it twice, most recently in a game against Michigan State this season and before that when she was playing in a pick-up game while at the University of Arizona a couple of years ago. Already the cartilage is collapsed over her nasal passages and her septum is deviated and that makes breathing difficult.
That also explains the breathing strip she wears over her nostrils during games and the sinus rinses she does each night at home.
“I squirt this solution up by nose and it comes out in my mouth,” she said shaking her head. “It’s really uncomfortable.”
Then there is the padded white sleeve she wears over her tender right elbow.
“I fell in our Pink Game this year and landed on my elbow,” she said. “I was wearing the sleeve on my left arm for an old injury so I just moved it over to my right.”
And when she’s not on the basketball court, Miller often wears a protective boot on one foot.
Her chronic foot problems are so severe there are some days she can barely walk in the morning. It’s why WSU coach Katrina Merriweather must limit her minutes in games because her feet get sorer and sorer the more minutes she plays.
As for that new ailment?
A chip on the shoulder.
When Miller joined the Raiders this season — after spending a season at Arizona and then transferring last year to Trinity Community College in Texas — Merriweather proclaimed she was a better all-around player than both Kim Demmings and Chelsea Welch. Both of those Raiders standouts were Horizon League Players of the Year.
Although her minutes were limited in many games to save her feet and while she had a few inconsistent performances during the season, Miller stood out in many games.
She had 25 points against Charlotte, 22 against Northern Kentucky and 20 versus Hofstra. She was the MVP of the Manhattan Invitational.
And she was the big reason WSU trounced Horizon League powerhouse Green Bay, 85-67, in early January at the Nutter Center. That game she made 4 of 6 three-point attempts and finished with 16 points.
She and Mackenzie Taylor led the Raiders in scoring this season with identical 11.9 points-per game averages.
But when the All Horizon League honors were announced last week, four deserving Raiders were honored – Taylor (first team), Symone Simmons (second team), Emily Vogelpohl (All Defensive Team) Angel Baker (All Freshman Team) – but Miller was not mentioned.
The head coach, sports information director and one media person from each school do the voting.
Merriweather said privately Miller admitted she was “hurt” by the snub, but after they talked the matter out, she said she thought it would be motivation for the versatile guard moving forward.
And sure enough, in the Horizon League Tournament opener last Tuesday against Oakland, Miller took her game to another level, making 8 of 11 field goals and four of six three pointers for a game-high 22 points in the Raiders’ victory.
Afterward she admitted she had a “chip” on her shoulder.
Monday, in the Raiders 60-51 victory over IUPUI in the Horizon League Tournament semifinal at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Miller had an off day shooting, going 2 for 10 and finishing with four points.
“She’ll play better tomorrow,” Merriweather said afterward. “She’s a jump shooter and when she gets going, she’s hard to stop. That’s how she was when Green Bay played at our place. That’s how the game goes sometimes.”
Miller agreed: “I’m looking forward to playing better tomorrow, but today my team had my back and that’s all that matters. We’re all in this together and we want to make history.”
The team already has made some this season, winning the Horizon League regular season title outright for the first time ever. A victory in the title game — they play Green Bay— would put the 26-6 Raiders in the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in program history.
After Monday’s game Merriweather ventured the Raiders are about the only team in the country that regularly plays all of its players, nine of whom scored against IUPUI.
Taylor led the way with 15 points. Baker added 14 and Vogelpohl, 10.
Merriweather said other players often benefit from all the attention defenses put on Miller:
“A lot of times other players are able to do what they do because of what Michal does out there. She’s a really talented player who has done things in games that other players only wish they could do.
“That’s why it was unfortunate that she wasn’t honored and recognized, but when we met we talked about the bigger picture.
“She could have gone to a lot of other schools, but she came here because she wanted to win a championship and be part of something special.
“And now she’s seeing that happen.”
Monday it also had her rethinking her schedule for the rest of the month.
“I supposed to go get my nose checked on the 15th and then I’m scheduled for surgery on March 26,” she said with a shrug, then a smile.
“But if we’re still playing I’m going to have to move it back.”
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