Earl Clark had career highs of 25 points and 13 rebounds and No. 9 Louisville held off Mississippi, 77-68, last night in the SEC/Big East Invitational, adding a little more misery to Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy's day.

Kennedy was arrested on misdemeanor assault charges following an altercation with a cabdriver. The driver said Kennedy punched him while calling him "bin Laden" and using other racial insults.

A pretrial hearing was set for Jan. 16. Kennedy was charged with a first-degree misdemeanor count of assault, which would carry a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail for conviction.

Kennedy denied the allegations and his attorney, Mike Allen, entered a written plea of not guilty in Hamilton County Municipal Court.

"I regret this situation," Kennedy said in a statement. "The focus should be on the players and the game, not on me. I vehemently deny the charges levied against me, and am completely confident that I will be fully exonerated of all charges."

The complaint filed in Municipal Court alleges that Kennedy assaulted Mohamed Moctar Ould Jiddou and "punched victim with a closed fist while shouting racial slurs." Kennedy, 40, was arrested at 1:15 a.m., police documents show.

Allen said Kennedy did not hit or slur anyone.

Police subsequently arrested Bill Armstrong, director of operations for the basketball team, on a charge of disorderly conduct. Armstrong, 31, was intoxicated and had been ejected from the Lodge Bar Cincinnati downtown, and had continued taunting the taxi driver, the police report stated. Allen also entered a not guilty plea for him and his pretrial hearing was also set for Jan. 16.

Alex Moller, the bar's general manager, confirmed Kennedy had been there, and said he "left the bar amicably."

Jiddou, a 25-year-old native of the northwest Africa country of Mauritania, told reporters that the altercation broke out after Kennedy hailed him and then asked him to pick up his friends. When four other people tried to get in, Jiddou said, he told them he couldn't take that many because he only had four seat belts.

Jiddou, a legal U.S. resident, said Kennedy then began yelling, cussing him and calling him "bin Laden, Saddam Hussein," and hit him in the face. Police said the left side of Jiddou's face was swollen; at his northern Kentucky home more than 12 hours later, he had no apparent injuries.

"[Osama] bin Laden killed 3,000 people in this country. I never hurt no one," Jiddou said.

He said he didn't know who Kennedy was until a police officer told him hours after the arrest.

The former assistant and interim head coach at Cincinnati decided to coach after meeting with athletic director Pete Boone.

Samardo Samuels added nine points and 13 rebounds as the Cardinals (7-1) won their fifth straight. David Huertas had 20 points for the Rebels (7-4).

In the first game:

* Deonta Vaughn had 16 points and the Bearcats (8-2) defeated Mississippi State, 75-63.

In other games:

* At North Carolina, Tyler Hansbrough scored 20 points to break the Tar Heels' career scoring record as No. 1 UNC (10-0) beat Evansville, 91-73.

Hansbrough passed Phil Ford (2,290) for the record midway through the first half.

* At Gonzaga, Josh Heytvelt scored 21 points and the No. 8 Bulldogs (8-1) routed Texas Southern, 84-42.

Noteworthy

* Ohio State junior forward David Lighty will miss 6 to 12 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot. *