SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Jet Chang was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, but if you think that is going to ease the pain of losing in the national championship game, forget about it.
Chang may have dazzled the fans at the MassMutual Center with a remarkable three-day run, but he would give up the 100 points he scored if it meant his BYU-Hawaii team would have won the title.
He said as much in the post-game news conference late Saturday afternoon after No. 2 Bellarmine handed the Seasiders a 71-68 loss in a thrilling national final.
Chang was the first player from a losing team to be named the MOP since Kentucky Wesleyan’s Antonio Garcia earned the honor in 1998.
“I didn’t really think too much about the award. Individual awards don’t mean that much to me,” Chang said. “I wanted to help us win a title. That was the most important thing to me.”
Chang was unable to accomplish that goal as the Seasiders (22-9) saw their magical run through the NCAA tournament come to a heart-breaking ending.
He tried to will his team to a victory as the time ticked off the clock late in the second half, His jumper with 5:33 to go cut the Bellarmine lead to 63-60 and the two free throws he hit after being fouled on a layup attempt sliced the Seasiders deficit to 63-62.
He had a chance to tie the game at 70 in the closing seconds, but his shot came up short. Chang wrapped up his day shooting 12-of-20 from the field and hitting four treys.
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“It was a good experience, especially to play in a championship game,” Chang said. “I worked hard to help my team anyway I could. I wish I could have done more, but I enjoyed having a chance to play here.”
Chang left an impression on everyone at the tournament. He had the people at the press table shaking their heads in disbelief as he hit one shot after another against the Knights en route to scoring 21 points in the first half.
BYU-Hawaii trailed the Knights (33-2) 47-43 at the break, but was unable to rally in the final 20 minutes as their five-game win streak came to an end.
Meanwhile, Chang scored the most points in a championship game since 2008 when John Flowers of Winona State dropped 30 points on Augusta State in an 87-76 win.
“Jet is a terrific player,” Bellarmine head coach Scott Davenport said. “He put on a show while he was here. We altered defenses in the second half to keep fresh bodies on him, and it worked well enough for us to get the win.”