Tom Coverdale doesn't know why, but there is something about playing against Notre Dame that brings out the best in him. Even when the game is on the line and the other team is trying to rattle him, Coverdale seems to like beating the Irish.\nLast season, it was his 30 points that led the Hoosiers to an 86-78 upset at No. 10 Notre Dame. Tuesday, Coverdale hit four critical free throws down the stretch with Irish freshman guard Chris Thomas talking in his ear to help IU preserve a 76-75 win in front of a sellout crowd of 17,456 at Assembly Hall.\n"I don't know. Part of it might be psychological, because I played well against them in the past," Coverdale said. "I was just thinking the same thing I thought with every other free throw."\nThe Hoosiers (5-2) have now beaten the Irish seven straight times and Notre Dame has not won at Assembly Hall since December of 1973.\nCoverdale finished with 11 points and four assists. Sophomore forward Jared Jeffries' 28 points and six rebounds led the Hoosiers. \nCoach Mike Davis didn't give Coverdale the start last night after a sub-par performance Saturday. Davis said he liked Coverdale's response to the challenge.\n"Tom Coverdale is a good basketball player," Davis said. "He's got habits he's got to break for us to be a good basketball team."\nNotre Dame (7-1) trailed IU 70-64 with 3:31 left. Senior center Ryan Humphrey and Thomas took over, with Thomas' pull-up jumper with 54 seconds left cutting the Hoosiers' lead to 72-70.\nCoverdale rebounded a Jarrad Odle miss and was fouled by Thomas in the lane with 30 seconds left. After Coverdale hit both free throws to give the Hoosiers a four-point lead, Thomas pulled up and hit a three over Coverdale to pull the Irish within one at 74-73 with 21 seconds left.\nSenior forward Harold Swanagan fouled Coverdale, who hit both free throws to get the lead back to three with 19 seconds left. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey used a timeout to set up a play, but junior guard Matt Carroll's three-pointer rimmed out.\n"We should have fouled," Davis said. "We made a mistake by letting them catch the basketball."\nHumphrey tipped Carroll's miss in to cut the lead to 76-75 with two seconds left, but following a missed free throw by freshman guard Donald Perry, Humphrey's court long heave missed as the buzzer sounded.\nIn such a close game, Davis couldn't help but notice the difference of playing in front of the home crowd.\n"It was strange," Davis said. "We're so used to playing on the road. Tonight was good. Our fans were great tonight."\nAfter getting handled by Southern Illinois Saturday, Davis wanted a better effort from his team. He got that in a very physical game that saw junior forward Jeff Newton foul out with 2:47 left. Jeffries played the last 6:41 of the game with four fouls.\n"You just got to play tough around the basket," Davis said. "Our guys are tough in there, I know it's in them."\nHumphrey finished with 23 points, 17 of which came in the second half. Thomas had 24 and Swanagan added 17.\nDavis also said he wanted his team to think before taking the quick three-point shot. The Hoosiers made only four three-pointers at Southern Illinois and Davis questioned his team's shot selection. The Hoosiers hit 7-of-17 three-pointers against the Irish.\nIU ran its offense more effectively, running the ball through the post players almost every time down the floor. Jeffries touched the ball more often, giving the Hoosiers with his best offensive game of the season. \nThe Hoosiers shot 46.8 percent from the floor for the game, getting better shots by working their offense. IU had 32 points in the paint and 14 second chance points.\n"We've been getting it inside but not as deep as we wanted to," Coverdale said. "When we get our inside game going like we did tonight it opens up the outside game a lot more. It makes our offense (run) the way it's supposed to run."\nAfter shooting only 35 percent from the floor in the first half, the Irish found themselves down 40-30 at the break. Brey credited the IU defense for the deficit.\n"They are a very good defensive team. It was a physical game, but you expect that," Brey said. \nFrom the outset, the Hoosiers were determined to run their offense through their post players. The plan worked early and IU grabbed a 9-4 lead. The Hoosiers used runs of 8-2 and 9-2 to open a 36-22 lead, their biggest of the night, with 4:23 left before halftime.\nThe Irish got back in the game behind Thomas and Humphrey opening the second half on a 12-6 run that led to a close second half. The Irish shot nearly 60 percent from the floor in the second half to get back in the game. \nDavis noticed that the Hoosiers might have tired, having little time to recover from Saturday's loss. Still, IU managed to hang on.\n"I don't know if we were tired down the stretch, but we were definitely a different basketball team down the stretch," Davis said. "I thought we came back tonight and gave a lot better effort"