If you were only casually watching LSU beat Kentucky on Tuesday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, it could've easily slipped under your radar. But Jarell Martin certainly noticed.

This playing defense stuff? Not all that bad.

Martin had a respectable offensive night with 9 points in the Tigers' 87-82 victory, though he missed two late free throws that could've made the finish a little smoother. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound freshman also had an assist on a press-break, feeding Andre Stringer for one of his 3 3-pointers.

The biggest contributions from Martin came on defense, though, and that's something sort of new for the talented forward.

In 31 minutes, Martin snared 3 defensive rebounds, blocked 3 shots and stole the ball twice. On a night when the LSU defense registered 11 blocks and 11 steals, it's not a stretch to say Martin was the defensive MVP.

"I feel like I've come a long way - getting some stops, some blocks, some steals just being more aggressive and being physical," he said. "With my length and versatility, I can play out on the wing and defend and use quickness or I can go down low and use physicality against big guys."

Added LSU coach Johnny Jones, who put the Tigers in a 2-3 zone with Martin and Jordan Mickey flanking Johnny O'Bryant, "I thought Jarell did an excellent job of containing and rebounding and contesting shots, something that we needed against a very good scoring Kentucky basketball team.

"We're hopeful (he is) able to grow from that. At the same time, when your teammates are playing well behind you, it allows for you to defend a certain way because you have help back there behind you, and I thought our guys did a great job of helping and rotating and helping each other and Jarell was certainly a part of that."

A big part.

UK's uber-talented forward Julius Randle struggled through a miserable night, hitting only 3-of-11 field goals on the way to a season-low 6 points. Of his eight misses, three were blocked, and he went to the foul stripe just once.

Martin was called for three fouls, but didn't get his third until the 12:03 mark of the second half. Mickey was whistled for only one infraction.

And it wasn't only Randle who scuffled. Wildcats' 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein was 1-of-5 from the floor and scored only 3 points in 17 minutes. UK did get a boost off the bench from Dakari Johnson (15 points and 6 rebounds) and Alex Poythress (10-7), but an out-of-sync Randle was too damaging a ripple effect to overcome.

"We're playing real physical now, so whoever is in there, it's more difficult to make plays," Martin said.

There's an added benefit as well, one that Martin was enthusiastic about.

While Martin is like most highly touted freshman and can generate energy from performing well on offense, now he has a better feel for how much a big play on the other end can be.

"If I get a blocked shot, it really gets my energy level going and makes me want to dominate on offense," Martin said.