STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) _ Antonio Jackson scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half giving Mississippi State a cushion that carried the Bulldogs to a 77-73 victory Saturday over South Carolina. ``Jackson really stepped up and shot that basketball in the hole,'' said Bulldogs head coach Rick Stansbury. ``AJ stepping up in that one stretch there kept the lead.'' Jackson had six of the Bulldogs 13 three-pointers in the game. Tang Hamilton added 16 points for the Bulldogs (16-11, 7-9 Southeastern Conference). Mississippi State and South Carolina (14-13, 6-10) will meet Thursday in the first round of the SEC Tournament in Nashville. Mississippi State jumped to an early 7-0 lead, as Hamilton knocked down two jumpers with Jackson recording his first three-pointer. The Gamecocks answered with a 19-4 run to hold a 19-11 lead with 12:15 remaining in the first half. ``We were able to stop them enough and we kept scoring,'' Stansbury said. ``When you make shots it makes everything else look pretty.'' South Carolina went up 39-38 on a Rolando Howell bucket with under a minute left before the half. The Bulldogs came back with a three-pointer by Timmy Bowers to go up 41-39 at the intermission. ``We had chances to win here,'' said Gamecocks coach Eddie Folger. ``They answered when they had to answer. They shot the ball extremely well today.'' Jackson controlled the second half for the Bulldogs, scoring 18 of his 23 points in the second stanza. Jackson's third three-pointer gave Mississippi State a 53-48 advantage with 15:00 left in regulation. South Carolina came back on a 7-0 run, including five points by Antonio Grant, who finished with 15 points, cutting the Bulldog lead to 70-69 with 5:00 left. That would be as close as the Gamecocks would get, as Hamilton and Roy Goffer hit free throws down the stretch to give Mississippi State its fourth win in the last five outings. ``We have had 14 of our (SEC) games be possession games with two minutes to go, and this was another one,'' Folger said. Mississippi State's 13 three-pointers was one shy of the record that was tied in last season's home final against Alabama. ``I'm proud of this team hanging together,'' Stansbury said. ``I'm very proud to get that victory.''