for this game

Bryant dominates first quarter as U.S. wins again

Aug 31, 2007 - 6:53 AM LAS VEGAS (Ticker) -- The United States has won all seven of its FIBA Americas Championship games in convincing fashion. Come Saturday's semifinals, it will take a victory by one point.

The Americans capped their undefeated run through the tournament's first two rounds Thursday night with a 91-76 triumph over previously unbeaten Argentina, earning the No. 1 seed in the semifinals.

Following an off-day Friday, the U.S. will face Puerto Rico in the biggest game of the tournament. A win would qualify the Americans for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, while a loss would force them to qualify through a last-chance tournament next summer.

"We are still learning the international game," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "(Puerto Rico) is a very confident basketball team and they use their strengths well. Their strengths are 3-point shooting. They can all hit 3-point shots."

Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant took over Thursday's game in the first quarter. The United States forced 10 turnovers, and Bryant singlehandedly outscored Argentina, 15-13, to give the Americans a commanding 15-point lead after the first 10 minutes.

"Kobe Bryant was on fire," Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said. "The first quarter was our worst quarter. We were surprised with how well they were on defense."

Bryant finished with a game-high 28 points, Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets added 18 and Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James chipped in 15.

Argentina trailed by as many as 25 points but managed to stay close. It forced 21 turnovers and collected nine more rebounds.

"We came back and finished strong," Argentina's Luis Scola said. "We wanted to get it under 20, and we did."

Scola - who plays for the Houston Rockets - had 20 points and five rebounds, while Diego Logrippo was the only other Argentine in double figures with 11 points.

Argentina, the defending Olympic champion, will play Brazil in the other semifinal Saturday. The winner also will advance to the Olympics.

"Brazil is the game we are looking for," Scola said. "In this championship, it's all about Saturday's game. We have been preparing a month and a half for Saturday's game."