The coach's hard work paid off in landing a pair of Top 100 recruits in the 2012 class. McCaffery further realized the fruits of his labor with Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell carrying his team Wednesday night.
The Sioux Land duo accounted for 11 of Iowa's 18 field goals in a 60-55 upset of No. 12 North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Gesell scored the game's last five points in netting a game-high 16. Woodbury finished 11 on 5 of 7 shooting from the floor and added seven rebounds.
"Every team needs to be able to go on the road and beat somebody of this caliber," McCaffery said. "I came into the season felling like we had a good team. I think we've played well. We haven't shot the ball well."
That sideways shooting continued Wednesday. Iowa players not named Gesell or Woodbury were a combined 7 of 38 from the floor.
The Hawkeyes continued to play good defense, however, and McCaffery and his staff drew up a strong game plan. North Carolina (5-2) shot 19 of 68 (27.9 percent) from the field, including 4 of 23 (17.4 percent) from behind the arc.
"I'm really proud of how we have defended, particularly today," McCaffery said.
The Iowa staff forced the Tar Heels to play offense in the half-court and took away their transition game. UNC hurt the visitors on the boards in the first half, but the Hawkeyes closed the gap after the intermission and only lost the battle of the boards, 46-42.
Iowa captain Aaron White suffered through his first rough shooting game of the season, missing all six of his field goal attempts. The senior connected on 10 of 10 from the free throw line, though, and grabbed eight rebounds.
Jarrod Uthoff, the team's second leading scorer, shot 2 of 13 from the floor and only netted eight points, but he grabbed a career-best 11 rebounds and blocked five shots.
Gabe Olaseni, who was expected to head home to London after the game following his father's passing last week, provided a solid 17 minutes off the Hawkeye bench. He score seven points, pulled down five boards and blocked a shot.
Anthony Clemmons spent a lot of the night harassing UNC point guard Marcus Paige, who hit only 4 of 16 shots (3 of 12 on 3-pointers) and turned the ball over three times without an assist. White also took some turns bothering the Tar Heels junior with his length. Clemmons took a huge charge on Paige late in the game.
While Gesell and Woodbury had help, the two juniors did the heavy lifting for their team Wednesday.
"There's a lot of excitement," Woodbury said. "This is why I came to the program, to help us get wins like this. We beat a very good team tonight. Not many people come to this hostile environment and get wins. We were fortunate enough to make some key plays down the stretch."
With the game tied at 55-55 and less than two minutes on the clock, UNC received the first shot to break the deadlock. Nate Britt misfired on a jumper and Uthoff rebounded it.
Gesell brought the ball up the floor and surveyed the situation. He dribbled down the right of the lane looking for a teammate but saw an opening. He got all the way to the rim for a layup, was fouled and hit the free throw.
"The shot clock was starting to run down so I knew I had to make a play," Gesell said. " I wanted to take it strong to the basket. I knew that had a lot of shot blockers and I had to get it high off the glass. I was able to sneak it in there."
Paige then turned it over before Uthoff missed a jumper. Given another chance, Paige missed a trey. Gesell was fouled, sank two shots from the charity stripe and the Hawkeyes had pulled off the upset.
"It's always my plan to be aggressive," said Gesell, who went without as field goal in the last two games. "I haven't been shooting the ball great lately and I just want to continue to stay aggressive with that."
It resulted in one of the biggest wins in his and his good friend, Woodbury's, college careers.
"It was huge for us," Gesell said. "It was nice to pull out this win down the stretch."
Gesell also got the best of his former AAU teammate, Paige, who played a lot of years with he and Woodbury back in Iowa.
"He's like my brother," Gesell said. "Every time I step into a competition with him, I want to beat him. It's a friendly competition. Once we step on the on the court, it was all business. We weren't talking to each other. We wanted to go at each other. We'll be best friends again off the court."