Argentina advanced to the semifinals of the Olympic men's basketball tournament with an 82-77 victory here Wednesday over Brazil at the North Greenwich Arena.

The two South American rivals played in their typical up-tempo style and it was reflected in the scoreboard, as Brazil took a 26-23 lead at the end of the first quarter before Argentina rallied to go on top 46-40 at halftime.

Brazil relied in the early going on the scoring punch of Marcelinho Huertas, who put in 17 points in the first half, while Argentina was red hot from the field.

The teams came out in an offensive rut at the start of the second half, with the two teams taking nearly two minutes to get on the scoreboard.

But then the Argentines, led by NBA players Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino and Manu Ginobili took charge and seized control of the game, first going up 10 and then stretching that lead to 61-46 with two and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Brazil's coach, Argentine Ruben Magnano, looked to his bench for for some relief and that helped shave a few points off the lead, but his team still faced a 64-54 deficit with just one quarter to play.

With point guard Pablo Prigioni taking charge, Argentina stiffened up its defense and continued to score enough baskets to maintain a comfortable edge on the scoreboard.

But Brazil, which was making its first appearance in men's basketball since 1996, refused to quit and battled to within two points with four and a half minutes to play.

They would get no closer though, as the Argentines responded immediately to go up 74-68 and Brazil's shaky play down the stretch sealed its defeat and Argentina's spot in the semifinals.

For the game, Brazil was led by the scoring duo of Huertas and Leandro Barbosa, a member of the NBA Indiana Pacers, while Scola scored 17 and Ginobili and Delfino 16 apiece for Argentina.

Barring a monumental upset, Argentina's opponent in Friday's semifinals will be the United States, which was leading Australia in the second half of Wednesday's last quarterfinal.

Spain and Russia will square off in Friday's other semifinal. EFE