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Iowa guard Maishe Dailey says Iowa doesn't really have a "second five," and he's ready to show the skills he hasn't in his first two seasons Mark Emmert, memmert@gannett.com

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IOWA CITY, Ia. — Maishe Dailey got off to a good start last year for the Iowa men’s basketball team, scoring 21 points in a pair of season-opening wins against lesser competition.

But this feels different.

The junior wing player showed a heightened confidence level, a more aggressive defensive posture, in the Hawkeyes’ 77-63 win over Missouri-Kansas City on Thursday.

Dare we call it swagger?

That’s what Iowa coach Fran McCaffery felt was missing from his team for much of the game. When Dailey was the first substitute called on in each half, he brought it.

“I just took it more personal this year, this offseason,” Dailey said afterward of his new mentality.

“I just felt like I haven’t been who I know I can be these past two years. I don’t think I’ve been comfortable on the court and I don’t think I’ve played to my ability yet.”

Dailey finished with 11 points and two assists in his 21 minutes Thursday. He drew a pair of fouls and hit all four of his free throws. He was the angular (6-foot-7, 200 pounds) first line of defense in the Hawkeye zone.

Dailey was the leader of a Hawkeye second unit he later said doesn’t really exist.

“We don’t really consider ourselves as a second five,” Dailey said. “There’s no dropoff from the starters. So we go in there with the same attack mindset that the starters have.”

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Dailey and his crew will get another chance to show their value at 2 p.m. Sunday when Iowa hosts Green Bay.

Dailey wasn’t the only substitute to have a strong opener.

Center Ryan Kriener eagerly threw himself into the fray in the paint, finishing with six points and eight rebounds in 16 minutes. A physical player, he drew three fouls while committing none, indicating there’s both finesse and power in his game.

Backup point guard Connor McCaffery seemed to find every seam in the Kangaroos’ defense, scoring seven points, handing out three assists and committing no turnovers in his 20 minutes.

But it was Dailey who shined the brightest. He sees his role as being a “defensive stopper” and, coincidentally or not, Iowa forced five consecutive empty possessions when he was inserted with 14:47 left in the first half. He came back in with 3:49 left in the half and the Kangaroos didn’t score in their next six tries.

It looks like progress for a player who scored only 27 points as a freshman and ended up averaging 4.9 points per game last year, when he got to the free-throw line only 33 times despite being a regular part of the rotation.

McCaffery likes what he’s seen so far from Dailey 3.0. Starting shooting guard Isaiah Moss (three points and no assists in 15 minutes Thursday) should be on notice that his minutes are not guaranteed.

“He handles the ball. He feeds the post. He defends. He makes shots. He does everything you need him to do,” McCaffery said of Dailey. “He doesn’t force anything. He doesn’t make mistakes where he’s putting his head down, he’s driving into packs of people. He just kind of plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

Dailey agreed that Thursday was a strong initial impression. But he’s shown flashes before.

“I think I just scratched the surface,” Dailey said.

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