Spears, Sherrill learn from lopsided loss
By Bret Strelow
DURHAM ó Charlotte forward Shamari Spears filed in behind teammate K.J. Sherrill as the 49ers proceeded toward midcourt.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski shook hands with Sherrill, then used his left hand to pat Spears on the chest.
A national-television appearance quickly turned into a nightmare for Charlotte, which lost 101-59 to the ninth-ranked Blue Devils in the second round of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Tuesday.
Spears (Salisbury) led the 49ers with 20 points in his third career game against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Sherrill (West Rowan) had three points and five rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench.
“We played a great team,” Spears said. “It was a big test for us, so we understand what great teams do. They were real focused, they executed their plays, took great shots and crashed the boards real hard.”
Duke (3-0) needed less than four minutes to establish a 17-4 advantage against the 49ers (2-1) in a game televised by ESPN, and the Blue Devils led by as many as 47 points.
Spears, a junior who tied his career high of 23 points in his Charlotte debut one night earlier, accounted for 12 of his team’s 27 first-half points Tuesday.
A Boston College transfer, Spears had 12 points in a 75-61 loss to Duke as a freshman and 10 points in a 90-80 setback at Cameron the next season.
“Spears is a load inside; I mean, a good load,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s a good player.”
The 49ers committed several turnovers trying to feed the ball to the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Spears against the likes of 6-8 Lance Thomas, 6-10 Miles Plumlee and 7-1 Brian Zoubek in the early going.
Spears scored for the first time by hitting a 3-pointer ó the first of his collegiate career ó over Plumlee from the right corner. He went 6-for-16 from the field, shot 7-for-8 from the line and grabbed four rebounds in 26 minutes.
“It’s exciting to know that you’re a main piece,” said Spears, who was more of a complementary player at Boston College. “Finally all the hard work is starting to show and pay off, but it wasn’t good enough because we didn’t win.”
Sherrill, a 6-7 freshman making his third appearance in a 49ers uniform, missed both of his field-goal attempts and went 3-for-4 at the line.
Chris Braswell led Charlotte with nine rebounds, and Sherrill tied Dijuan Harris for the next-best total on the team.
“The game is physical,” Sherrill said. “If I’m going to play against players a lot bigger, I’m going to have to be ready.
“High school was easier because I was the biggest person, but now it’s a whole different level with people 7-foot I have to guard. I’ll just have to work hard to get better every day in practice.”