INDIANAPOLIS, AUG. 20 -- The U.S. men's basketball team had met virtually no legitimate opposition through five games of this Pan American Games competition. Even Coach Denny Crum was concerned that his team could rush through to the gold medal game without being tested.

But his team found itself in an all-out, NCAA tournament-like game with less than a minute remaining here in Market Square Arena this afternoon. It took last-minute heroics by David Robinson and Danny Manning to save an 80-75 victory over a resourceful Puerto Rico team in this semifinal match.

The U.S. advanced to Sunday's gold medal game (4 p.m. EDT), in which they will play Brazil, which got 56 points from Oscar Schmidt in a 137-115 semifinal win over Mexico. But it's almost inconceivable that they could run into the problems like they did today.

They were thankful that Robinson, who led his team with 20 points and 13 rebounds, played his best defense of the tournament when the United States needed him most. He prevented Jose Ortiz from beating the U.S. team all by himself.

Ortiz, a 6-foot-11 center/forward who played his collegiate ball at Oregon State, looked every bit the first-round NBA draft choice (Utah Jazz) that he is by scoring 22 points, including 14 straight for his team, in the first half.

He was the reason the first half ended in a 39-39 tie. (In fact, Puerto Rico would have led had Mario Morales not blown a breakaway layup at the buzzer.)

"We put everybody we had, except David, on Ortiz in the first half because we didn't want David in foul trouble {Robinson fouled out in only eight minutes the previous game}," Crum said. "But in the second half, we put David on him and he did a tremendous job to keep Ortiz from killing us."

Robinson also had a hand in the late-game heroics. Jerry Ocasio's two foul shots pulled Puerto Rico within 72-70. But Robinson took a feed from Pooh Richardson and scored a short jumper to keep the United States ahead with 2:15 to play.

After Ortiz (13 of 19 from the field, game-high 31 points) made a fadeaway, it was 74-72. But Kansas all-America Manning made two free throws with 1:39 left, two more with 36 seconds left, then dunked at the buzzer.

The U.S. team had led by 72-59 with six minutes to play. But the U.S. second-teamers yielded 11 straight points, including Morales' three-pointer.

The Puerto Ricans seemed proud, almost belligerent, in defeat. Two of their best big men were left at home in a controversial decision by the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee. Still, the team came close to upsetting the U.S. team, although Ortiz got little help from Alabama-Birmingham star Jerome Mincy, who made just made three of nine shots and had three rebounds.

"I think Jose just outplayed David Robinson," Puerto Rico Coach Armandito Torres said.

After doing about anything he wanted the first half, Ortiz tried an inside shot, which Robinson rejected. The ball rebounded to Ortiz. Robinson rejected him again.

Robinson and Ortiz had faced each other once before, on the last weekend of March in New Orleans during the coaches' all-star game that preceded the NCAA final. Robinson said he couldn't remember the details, but players on both teams knew he had spanked Ortiz pretty good.

"I played Jose once before and I got in his face," Robinson said. "I figured maybe he'd be a little shaky. Once I blocked those two, he didn't take a couple of shots that he'd normally take. In the first half, we let him go to the boards entirely too much. I wanted to make sure that when he shot again he'd have some flashbacks. He got a little shy and wasn't nearly as offensive-minded as he had been in the first half."

Torres, who replaced Gene Bartow (who either quit or was fired this week, depending on whom you believe), said he and his players came into the game believing firmly it would be close.

Once the U.S. team started playing harder, Puerto Rico couldn't come back completely.

"Through three exhibitions and five Pan Am Games, the games hadn't been close and we hadn't been tested," Crum said. "I'm pleased we were tested tonight . . . I told them when we first got here that Puerto Rico and Brazil were capable of beating us . . . I don't know if they believed me then, but I know they do now."