State, which lost in overtime 96-95 at Bluefield State on Thursday, suffered through a particularly unpleasant four-game January skid, dropping three of the games by an average of 32 points.
"It's been a struggle,'' said State coach Bryan Poore, "to get these guys to play together and to buy in to me, the program, to each other and even to themselves. It's been a tough year, that's for sure. And what caused it, I don't know. But once it started going bad, we never could get out of the hole.''
Barring a stunning postseason run, the Jackets will finish with a losing record, Poore's first since 2001-02 when they were 9-18, 7-11. Since then, State has won two regular-season and three tournament titles.
"We could never get the momentum going where everybody could feel good about everybody,'' said Poore. "We've been our own worst enemy, not only in games but in general.''
The winner of next week's tournament at the Charleston Civic Center earns an automatic bid to the Division II Atlantic Region tournament.
Reach Mike Whiteford at mikewhitef...@wvgazette.com.