Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy filed suit against a cabdriver who charged him with assault and a parking valet who said he witnessed the incident, charging both with defamation.

Attorney Richard Katz said he filed the suit yesterday afternoon in Hamilton County (Ohio) Court of Common Pleas.

Named as defendents in the suit were driver Mohammed Oulf Jiddou and valet Michael Strother. The suit asks for damages of more than $25,000 from each.

Jiddou, 25, a native of Mauritania, in northwest Africa, charged that Kennedy, 40, struck him in the face and used racial insults, including calling him Osama bin Laden, after trying to get into his cab, after he and several members of his coaching staff had left a bar in downtown Cincinnati.

Katz said Jiddou used a racial epithet toward assistant Torrey Ward, which precipitated a disagreement, but no physical confrontation.

Kennedy was arrested early Thursday, and coached his team against Louisville in a SEC/Big East Invitational game that night.

Meanwhile, point guard Chris Warren is out for the season after tearing his left anterior-cruciate ligament in the game, which Ole Miss lost, 77-68.


* Syracuse guard Eric Devendorf must perform 40 hours of community service and be reinstated by the university before he can play, after being accused of hitting a female student.

In another matter, point guard Jonny Flynn (hip) could miss tonight's game at Memphis.

In games last night:

* At Richmond, Chas McFarland had 20 points and 14 rebounds as No. 10 Wake Forest (10-0) won, 86-79.

* At Marquette, Lazar Hayward scored a career-high 27 points as the No. 24 Golden Eagles (9-2) beat Western Carolina, 94-77. *